Making a difference: Tim Costello tells us how to raise good humans

Posted in Learning and Development.

We all want to raise our children to be good humans. If you were Tim Costello’s mum and dad, chances are you’d be thinking you’d done something right.

The Baptist minister and former CEO of World Vision Australia has dedicated his life to helping others. So what are the key things that influenced the young Tim Costello to be the man he is today?

The impact of history on parenting styles

Tim’s parents grew up in a time very different from today. His dad was born in 1919 and lived through The Depression and the Second World War. His mother was born in 1929.

Tim says that democracy and prosperity weren’t taken for granted, “So it was: where do you find meaning because it’s not safe outside. Parents wanted to give kids resources because there are dangerous things, arbitrary things. I think a lot of parents were shaped by those big forces of depression and war.”

As a result, Tim grew up with a greater sense of independence and a desire to find meaning in his life.

Listen to Tim Costello on Feed Play Love:

The influence of religion

Tim’s parents had very different approaches to their faith.

His dad believed in working towards heaven because life is suffering. His mum wanted to find the good in the world and help those now (and not wait for heaven).

“Dad was saying to me that this world is a veil of tears. There is suffering and don’t be afraid of it because it produces character and character is really the thing that’s important in life.

Mum was saying, ‘How are we doing good? How can we actually bring joy and hope and compassion? How can we engage with this world here and now?’

“Both of them with their different approaches to Christian faith gave me wonderful gifts; gifts that I treasure, gifts that shaped me.”

Ways to build character

Apart from not shielding children from the knocks of life, Tim says some simple things that helped him develop character included sharing a room with his brother for seventeen years, and being able to play all day without digital distractions.

“Kids these days all seem to have a fundamental human right to a bedroom, and it [not having our own room] actually didn’t hurt us.”

His family would always eat dinner together, something that Tim has carried into his parenting style.

“There was no TV on at mealtimes when I was growing up. We would discuss what’s happening in life. Meals would go for two hours, and we would discuss everything.”

“The signature of our age is anxiety at every level”

Today, Tim is a grandfather as well as a parent of three adult children.

He is concerned that helicopter parenting and thinking that your child is the most gifted, is robbing children of their ability to develop character and build resilience.

“I think that anxiety actually prevents kids from the knocks in life and from understanding that we’re all fragile humans trying to get by.”

If he had his way, he wouldn’t let children on social media until they are eighteen.

“I think the way we engage online is a profound shift. I would take kids’ phones at the school gate when they go to school and give them back at the end of the day. I just think the virtual world has become too domineering and often robbing kids of a childhood.”

It’s about finding purpose and meaning

Tim’s children have grown up surrounded by their father’s work. People with mental illness, drug problems, the down and dispossessed.

The way he was raised shaped the way he raised his kids and that approach has been good for his children.

“Our parenting was good for our kids because we had a purpose; we didn’t just live for ourselves.

“There was this sense that you find your true self when you serve others. When you are able to engage and make a difference in others’ lives, I think all our three kids are absolutely able to say that was a blessing, though it had difficult moments in their childhood.”


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