This post is about 10 life lessons every parent should instill in their kids.
The other day I was talking with a friend who has three kids on the cusp of becoming teenagers. Feeling nervous about what the future holds, she asked me what advice I could offer to prepare her for the upcoming tumultuous teen years.
My initial response was, I don’t have the slightest idea.
Like most parents, I’m fumbling my way through the teen years. I’m learning by trial and error, tweaking my approach as I go and praying every single day that I’m doing it right. Thankfully, my kids are doing well despite my shortcomings as a parent.
But as I sat chatting with her, diving into conversation about mood swings, teen rebellion, the social pressures kids endure today and girl drama, I realized that the crux of raising teenagers – or really, raising kids of any age – boils down to just a few important life lessons.
The sooner we instill these lessons in our kid’s hearts and minds, the smoother our parenting journey will be, the less rocky life will be for our children and the better we’ll be preparing our kids for life as an adult.
Here are 10 life lessons every parent should instill in their kids:
#1 If You’re Thankful, Show It
From the time our kids are toddlers one of our primary goals as parents is to teach manners. Saying “thank you” tops the list. But being thankful isn’t simply about tossing out a hasty response to someone’s kind words or gesture. It’s about being truly grateful and showing it – a practice that must be taught. Kids need to learn to be truly appreciative when someone gives selflessly and learn how to communicate back to them in a manner that’s worthy of their generosity, including showing enthusiasm through their words, facial expressions or their touch, by writing a hand-written note or returning a favor.
#2 If You Love Someone, Tell Them
Life is far too short to leave important words and feelings left unsaid. Our parents, children, siblings, relatives, and friends walk with us on our journey through life and oftentimes, we’re so busy in the hustle-bustle of daily life that we forget life is about relationships and emotional connections. Teach your children that tomorrow is never promised. Say what’s in your heart before it’s too late.
#3 If You’re Wrong, Fess Up
There’s an old Scottish proverb that says, “Confessions are good for the soul.” Despite the truth these words hold, few people actually fess up when they’re wrong. It’s always easier to cover up our mistakes or blame others. But our integrity is all we have in life. Teach your children that rather than having others assess their character based on their actions to avoid accountability, it’s always better to own up to their mistakes and face the consequences head-on so they can move forward with a clean slate and a clean conscience.
#4 If You’re Confused, Ask Questions
When our kids are young they exhaust us by asking a million questions. Their little minds are filled with curiosity, taking in every small detail. They aren’t afraid to ask questions. They aren’t shy about asking why. And, they’re not worried about what others think if they don’t know the answer – they simply ask. We need to keep that sense of wonder and spirit alive in our kids by encouraging them to continually ask questions. We need to help them embrace the idea that not knowing is okay – in life, in relationships, in school, with their job, and in their future career.
#5 If You Learn Something, Teach Others
“In some corner of your life, you know more about something than anyone else. The true measure of education is not what you know, but how you share what you know with others.” In other words, if you learn, teach. If you get, give. The venerable aphorism is drummed into our kid’s heads the first time we ask them to teach their sibling how to play a game or share a toy they received for their birthday. But somehow, as our kids become older, the value of the lesson fades and competition kicks in. We need to reinforce the importance of passing along knowledge, empowering others and lending our hand to the person behind us.
#6 If You’re Stuck, Ask For Help
It used to be that our kids would ask for help without giving it a second thought. But as they grow older, the idea of asking for help becomes less of an option – either because they feel insecure about requesting support or out of fear that they’ll be viewed as vulnerable or weak. But the truth is, everyone needs help from time to time. There is a beautiful place somewhere between going it alone and graciously accepting the support of others. What our kids need to be reminded of, too, is while some may view their request as a burden, most people welcome – and even find pleasure – in helping others.
#7 If You Made a Mistake, Apologize
Through the years of raising my kids, my motto has always been “if you mess up, fess up.” There’s nothing worse than a person who passes the blame or makes excuses – essentially nothing more than a way to shield our ego. Teach your kids the importance of owning up to their mistakes and reinforce the idea that mistakes are nothing more than lessons in disguise, detours to new paths and opportunities to try again.
#8 If You Trip, Get Back Up
Fortitude, resilience, and stick-to-itiveness is an inherent quality our kids are born with. When they’re learning to walk, no matter how many times they fumble and fall, they get back up and keep trying. Unfortunately, resilience and resolve have a way of fading over time. Life gets hard, our kids lose their determination or nerve and society pounds it into their heads that “they can’t.” But they can. With a little help from us, our kids can develop grit, strength of character, courage and learn how to brush themselves off and get back up – no matter how difficult life gets.
#9 If Someone Needs Help, Help Them
When Joshua Bell, one of the most skilled violin virtuosos in the world, put on a t-shirt and a baseball cap, walked into a subway station in New York during rush hour and played some of the most beautiful and respected music in history, few noticed. If we don’t stop and notice the beauty that surrounds us as adults, how will we ever teach our children to notice the harsh realities of life – the underprivileged, the hurt, the homeless or the suffering? Whether it’s a fellow student who’s struggling with a math problem or a homeless person on the street who needs a warm blanket on a cold night, our kids need to be taught to pay attention to life and their surroundings, to take the focus off of themselves and reach out to those in need.
#10 If You See Wrong, Take a Stance
The true test of our kid’s character is their ability to stand up to others, to speak up and take a stance when they see wrong. It’s a life lesson that takes time – sometimes a lifetime, in fact – to truly master. Although it’s far easier to remain quiet, silence is often deemed as approval. Understanding the value of speaking up when something needs to be said, is only half the battle, knowing when and how to say it is of equal importance. Teach your kids that, despite the risk, honesty, virtue, integrity, and righteousness is always the best route. Right is right even if no one is doing it. Wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.
“Yes, parenting is hard, but if you narrow it down, there are only 10 important life lessons every parent should instill in their kids.”