Tag Archives: Life lessons

Teach Your Children Well…12 Essential Lessons of Life

Photo Credit: Pixabay

I married late in life, and the children came even later. Parenting wasn’t an instinctual process for me. Fortunately, mentors came along at pivotal times, as did parents whom I did not want to be like. Between the two, I found my way.

Feeding, clothing, and protecting children are all crucial…but what do we teach them? What are the essential lessons of life?

Two old songs come to mind when I think of the sober nature of teaching our children what they must learn for life. The old folk/rock group Crosby, Stills, and Nash & Young wrote and performed Teach Your Children. Graham Nash wrote the lyrics out of his painful relationship with an absent, sometimes imprisoned, father. Nash’s message is that we have to teach our children to make a better life…if not better world.

You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught is the other deeply emotional song out of the musical South Pacific. This song points to racial prejudice and cultural bias, and how hatred must be taught to children when they are young. Mandy Patinkin‘s version of this song communicates its meaning powerfully.

Although hatred or bias can be taught, even from an early age, such dreadful things can also be caught over time in culture. Things like entitlement, dishonesty, greed, and irresponsibility. We as parents (teachers and employers also) have a huge role in guiding children and young people to mature into caring and responsible adults…even in a culture that may cut across the grain of our own values.

I’d like to explore what we must teach our children. Intentionally, with meaningful purpose. Catching those teachable moments and seasons. Some things are more “caught than taught”, as the saying goes. Kids will catch some values living in close proximity to us and others. That makes the case, as well, for how we choose to live and what companions we seek for ourselves and our children.

More Is Caught Than Taught – Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni

When our children were young, we taught them a set of rules which we honored in our home. The 21 Rules of This House by Gregg and Joshua Harris. These rules were, in ways, simplistic but also comprehensive enough to help us create a safe, orderly, and loving home, where children AND parents had the same expectations. Photo Credit: Choosing HomeSchool Curriculum

Our children are grown now, out on their own. Two of them are already in the season of small ones and will establish their own essentials for teaching their children.

This is a reminder to them of their own family values…I hope it’s also a help to you. These are 12 essential lessons of life. They are not comprehensive. I would love to hear what you think should have been there as well, in the Comments section below. Thanks.

1) Love God – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” – Jesus – Matthew 22:37-38 If you are reading this and don’t share a faith in one God, then this won’t have meaning for you. Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandments of the law (in that day, they were burdened by the weight of over 600 laws). His answer? Love God with everything in your being. Clearly it’s good for us to do and something parents can model and teach from the time children are tiny.

2) Love others – You shall love your neighbor as yourself.– Jesus – Matthew 22:39  Jesus didn’t stop at the greatest commandment. He added this one as just second to the most important. Love others. Not just your buddies. Not just those like you…but whomever neighbor is…the nobody, the every man. Jesus was clear in his instruction in “as yourself”. However it is we would serve ourselves, we give of ourselves to those around us. Wow! Great wisdom to teach our children.

3) Be obedient (honoring) – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” – Ephesians 6:1-3 What a struggle it is for us to teach our children to obey! What a developmental milestone when they get it! Not after we count to 3, or 10…or whatever other enticement to obey comes to mind. Immediate obedience – in attitude and action.

Raising in our children in huge cities made it crucial for them to obey the instant they heard us speak to them, especially over the noise of the city. One thing we did was a bird call (a whistle sounding “bob, bobwhite”. When they heard they looked up and started heading in our direction immediately. I still marvel when even today, that still gets their big grown-up attention.

More on obedience can be found here.

Photo Credit: Flickr

4) Be grateful. – Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18  God’s Word is filled with examples and encouragements toward being grateful (here are just a few). Jesus’ life was a testament of thankfulness to God the Father, and He taught us to pray with thanksgiving. Our kids grew up with The Thankful Song (from the Veggie Tales Madame Blueberry video) – “A grateful heart is a happy heart; that’s why we say thanks everyday.”

The Power of Gratitude – 21 Verses of Thanks to God – Debbie McDaniel

Avoid Raising an Entitled Child – 5 Strategies That Really Work – Amy McCready

5) Speak the truth. – Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight. – Proverbs 12:22 The worst offense in our home was lying. Jesus spoke of Satan as being the father of lies (John 8:44). Telling the truth is something we model and something, I hope, our children value highly in their adult lives. No spin, no deception…straight-up truth. Truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

6) Work with diligence and excellence. – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.Colossians 3:23   In grasping this lesson, children learn perseverance, patience, and an understanding of the value of work. Our youngest struggled with academics and he would say, about homework, “I just want to get it done!” As he matured, he moved his lament to more of a charge of “get it done and done well”. Watching him grow in that continues to make us so proud of him.

12 Ways to Glorify God at Work – Jose Etter

7) Seek joy. – Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, persistent in prayer. – (Romans 12:12) Grumbling, discontent, and whining are such a part of human nature. When we count our situation joy, whatever it is, everyone wins. Other verses here.

8) Seek peace. – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:9) Sometimes we crave peace, and we’ll do anything to get it. Our children don’t need to learn how to be peace-keepers but to be peace-makers. It’s not about giving way to the one causing trouble, for instance. It’s developing relational skills to bring peace to a situation, resolving the conflict. More verses here on peace.

9) Be forgiving. – Bear with each other and forgive any complaint you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.Colossians 3:13 Holding grudges and distancing ourselves from others in un-forgiveness is no way to live. Forgiving because we are forgiven carries with it a deep loving perspective. Helping our children understand how to forgive, especially little ones who have been gravely hurt by others, is huge. More on forgiveness.

10) See beauty; create beauty. – He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 My children tease me sometimes because they say I think everyone out there is handsome/pretty. God has given me eyes to see, maybe as He sees. He creates beauty and He means for us to see and appreciate it…and create beautiful things ourselves.Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

Our children are all musicians (one professionally) or writers . They create beauty as we all can…in some way or another.

Nathan Mills -Beyond The Guitar

Top 10 Bible Verses about Art with Commentary

Saying Beautifully as a Way of Seeing Beauty – John Piper

11) Be kind. – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – (Ephesians 4:32) Again, years ago, when our kids were very young, they participated in a Vacation Bible School and learned a little song on kindness. “K-I-N-D, Love Is Kind”. I couldn’t find it anywhere for today’s blog, but the message stuck in all our heads. One of the simplest ways to show love is to be kind – to be generous and caring in our consideration of others. The Scripture points often to kindness in loving each other.

Be Kind to One Another – John Piper

12) Serve others. – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.Hebrews 13:16 This lesson of serving others is one I actually struggled to teach well. I fell into the excuse (like many in America do) that they had so much homework, so many assignments to complete, that they should just have fun when they had the time. Serving could have totally been a “fun” way of life. I hope our children do better with teaching serving than I did. More on serving here.Photo Credit: Niagara

In closing, I’ve left off many things. Critical thinking is one. Physical purity another. In fact, do you remember that little song, “Be Careful Little Eyes What You See.” Our kids knew that in English and Arabic.

Still probably the greatest lesson across the years of childhood (which goes along with the two greatest commandments Jesus taught) is the one Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, taught us.

Let (your) heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.

We want to teach our children to do right, for for the sake of others and for themselves, and to stand up for what is right.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6

Let Your Heart Be Broken – Jeremiah 8, 9 – Rick Ezell

Bible Verses on Injustice

The Lessons of an Innercity Hospital – God Loves Us All the Same

Blog - Grady Hospital - by unclepockets - Flickr Grady. wikimedia.orgPhoto Credit: UnclePockets, Flikr: Grady, Wikimedia.org

For seven years, I worked in Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital. At that time, it was THE hospital (rather than the “main hospital” of the Grady Health System) with 18 floors and 1100 beds. Grady is a “safety net” hospital, extending care to the urban poor. It’s also a Level 1 trauma center. Situated in downtown Atlanta, perched alongside major interstate highways (I-85/75 and I-20), Grady echoes with sirens sounding constantly, signaling the arrival of victims of strokes, gunshot wounds or high-speed auto accidents.

Way above the crazy chaos of the trauma center, my job took me into the relative quiet of the 10th floor oncology service. 10B was my unit, serving cancer patients in treatment or in the days of dying when treatment failed. I was the oncology clinical nurse specialist, responsible for training and assistive to nurse, patient, and family support. Many days, it was the extra set of hands that was needed the most.

What happened in that space of seven years, early in my career, taught me deep lessons about life and caring.

I came to Grady after finishing graduate school at Emory University…too young and inexperienced really for the job and the confidence given me. Mary Woody, the director of nursing at that time, gave me wise counsel. “Whatever is done for the patient, be it housekeeping or medical treatment, learn as much as you can about its delivery, and do whatever you can to serve at all those levels.”

I listened and did my best to follow her counsel.

Almost all my colleagues and our patients were African-American and urban. I was not, having grown up in a small town outside the city, in a school system only integrated while I was in high school. In the quiet moments on the unit (few but treasured), I would listen to stories unlike anything I’d ever experienced. Especially from the older ones. Stories of years living in segregation (Grady was actually built as a segregated hospital with wings opposite each other for the care of blacks and whites). Stories of years after, living in forced integration.

One day I want to write some of those stories. Having grown up in a home where my mom taught us to love without distinctions for differences, I had actually missed seeing what it must have been like for those who lived every day marked somehow by the color of their skin.

Again, I was very young during those years at Grady and drank in the stories…marveling at the courage and resilience of both my older colleagues and our patients and families. Taken aback at times, to be honest, by the clear declarations of my “shared responsibility”, being white, of past atrocities they had experienced. If I could have asked forgiveness for all of that, I would have. Instead, “I’m sorry” seemed so inadequate.

Debbie & Grady nurse buddy

There were many lessons for me in those years. Here’s the story I wanted to share today:

It was the end of my work day…as I walked off the unit, thoughts of beloved patients who might not make it to tomorrow clouded my mind. At the bank of elevators, I punched the down button. Finally, the doors of one opened, and it was packed. Often, because of how full and slow Grady’s elevators were, people would go up to come down.

Maybe in deference to my being in nurse’s uniform, or just out of the kindness of strangers, there was a push backward and a space was made for me. I gratefully filled that space. Then the other elevator occupants relaxed and squeezed me in their embrace as the door closed.

At the end of the day, everybody just wanted to get home. That tight fit continued all those floors down to ground. Me and my white uniform – all that whiteness enveloped by so many tired, black family members. Tired like me or more so. The smell of sweat and potato chips, and the heat of so many bodies, caused me to withdraw back into my own small thoughts.

As if in audible voice, God broke through that noise in my head with: “I love you all the same.” All of us, in that elevator – the poor and the privileged. We are important to Him. It is so easy to fall into our own swollen self-importance – whether it relates to position or education or any other state of being we take comfort in…or through which we isolate ourselves.

God’s heart toward us and ours toward each other – that is transforming. That can be world-changing.

Until that moment, I had felt no compassion for those surrounding me in that small space. We were squashed together never to probably see each other again once we reached street level. Yet, in that moment, at the beckoning of God to take notice, I remembered that we all matter to Him. Whatever was going on in each of our lives – bone-weariness or deep sorrow or great anticipation at good news – we mattered to Him.

God calls us to enter into the generous love He has for us and for our neighbor.

If my companions in that elevator knew my thoughts that moment, they might have pulled back a bit from me. I just wanted to turn around and take in all those faces – to bask in the radiance of His love for each one. At that moment, I wanted to rejoice with those rejoicing and weep with those who would weep beyond that elevator. I was low and brought up by their small kindness and I wanted to somehow do the same.

Was there a glow in that tiny room of strangers? There was for me.

Of course, I didn’t strike up friendships with those who nudged out after me on the ground floor at the last opening of that elevator door. We all walked out into the Georgia late afternoon sun, all together, and then peeled off to different destinations. I went on to my car in the employee parking lot – another privilege of mine, among so many.

That day, my heart opened wider to where I might fit in the Kingdom of God, and what His purposes were for us – to love Him and to love others as He sees them and loves them. The patients, families, and colleagues I loved already…and the strangers along the way.

Seeing the people, He [Jesus] felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. “Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”Matthew 9:36-38

YouTube Video – Grady Memorial Audio Slideshow

Love is the Final Fight – an Ode to John M. Perkins

Baptist Global Response

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself – Part 1 – John Piper

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself – Part 2 – John Piper