Olivia Wilde’s children — her 4-year-old Otis and 1-year-old Daisy — are adorable. As children (and well-behaved children, no less), you wouldn’t necessarily think to call them “self-involved,” but Wilde has described them that way herself. She’s not just being harsh, however. She has good reason for being brutally honest.
The actor told InStyle just how important she believes it is to teach kids to be thoughtful, especially with regard to the environment. It’s the No. 1 life lesson she thinks parents should be teaching their kids early on.
After all, according to National Geographic, about 18 billion pounds of plastic is polluting the ocean each year. Meanwhile, The Weather Channel is calling climate change a “public health crisis” and a “national security concern.” The Guardian says that 83 percent of wild mammals have been destroyed thanks to humankind. NASA reports that the number of record-high-temperature events in the United States has been increasing while the number of record-low-temperature events has been decreasing since 1950, leading to a whole host of natural disasters. And the World Health Organization reports 4.2 million deaths every year as a result of exposure to ambient air pollution — 91 percent of the world’s population lives in places where air quality exceeds WHO guideline limits.
“Kids are born thinking that they are the masters of their universe, that everything revolves around them, because we really teach them that at a young age,” she told InStyle. “They’re born and everything is about them, and then at a certain age, the harsh reality of life kicks in and they realize it’s not all about them. And I think slowly, when they’re like two years old, you have to introduce them to concepts of limited resources. You have to say, ‘No, you can’t leave the water running.’ Every kid just wants to leave the hose on, or the faucet on, whatever it is. They want to use all the paper towels, because they have no concept of limited resources, and why should they? So at a young age, I just try to remind them we have to share this space. We have to share these resources.”
Otis and Daisy are starting to practice what their mom preaches too, Wilde said.
“I think sometimes you have to show them why making a change in their lives isn’t going to rob them of quality of living,” Wilde explained. “So it’s about saying you can live with the same quality of your live [sic], you can live with the same ease and convenience, there’s just ways to do it differently now.”
She also went on to add that those of us who have the option to shop more consciously and support companies doing things differently should. When she started earning her own money and had an opportunity to support those companies, she said she decided to use the “life lottery” in a thoughtful way. And she hopes that her children will follow suit one day.
“I think [Otis and Daisy] like that it means they can participate; kids do like plugging in and participate,” she said. “That’s why Earth Day is such a genius concept. It’s amazing how much we forget as adults, going through the busy lives that we have, and then your kid comes back from preschool and is like, ‘Mom, this is why we can’t use plastic bottles.’ And good! I’m glad it’s being reinforced. But that’s why early childhood education is so important, because if you think about it, an entire generation of parents are learning from their children.”
A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards and career advice.