The superstar couple reveal that they find constant enlightenment from their offspring

By Scott Huver
Updated December 04, 2016 04:36 PM
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Between them, Warren Beatty and Annette Bening have collected just about every career accolade imaginable, but they admit that they take the most pride in their children – and don’t mind gushing.

“I became a devoted husband and father 25 years ago, and I have to say they have been the most enthralling years of my life, with our four fantastic kids,” Beatty said Thursday while accepting the Kirk Douglas Award, a career achievement honor bestowed by the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

After meeting and falling in love while working on the historical gangster drama Bugsy in 1990, Beatty, 79, and Bening’s family quickly expanded to include children Stephen Ira, 24, Benjamin, 22, Isabel, 19, and Ella, 16. Their eldest has recently become a prominent activist voice in the transgender community.

“We are married now for 25 years, and we have these four, what I like to call small eastern European countries that we negotiate with, and we send ambassadors, and we negotiate, and they’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me – they, and her,” Beatty told PEOPLE before the ceremony at the Bacara Resort & Spa in Goleta, California.

Later, he quipped on stage, “Once in a while, who knows? We might even get a text returned.”

Bening, 58, said her vision of their journey as parents evolved along the way. “At the beginning you think that you’re there to teach them something, but then of course what you realize is it’s all about you learning from them,” she revealed at the event, which was sponsored by Hennessy Paradis Imperial. “So we’re definitely at that point, where we’re just listening to them and then they’re enlightening us. We’re really proud of our children. So we brag about them when we can.”

RELATED VIDEO: Warren Beatty Calls Transgender Son Stephen His ‘Hero’: ‘He’s a Revolutionary’

Asked about a recent enlightenment provided by their offspring, Bening was quick to respond.

“The election! Yeah, they all have a lot to say about the election.” In a nod to Beatty’s longtime political activism – he once set his high-profile Hollywood career aside for a year to campaign for presidential hopeful George McGovern in 1972 – she added, “We’re all Democrats. That’s one thing we did right: all Democrats.”