10 things to teach your kids about living

In Feb, 2016, I published this article on Crosswalk. It has run well and continues to be helpful parenting advice. I’ve amended it below for parents of boys and girls. (Click here to read the original.)

Your kids can live their lives well by adhering to these principles.

And I’m not talking about becoming rich and popular. (That’s probably not living well.)

An action shot. It takes about 8 pictures to get one with everyone smiling at the camera.

1. Pursue God above everything else.
 Pursuing God provides a framework for every other piece of advice anyone could give you. Please stay in a continually growing relationship with Christ. No career, no family, no sport, no amusement could ever replace the peace and fulfillment that comes through a mature relationship with Jesus Christ. This doesn’t happen by accident, and it’s not easy. Your relationship with God should be priority number one because it influences all your other priorities. If you screw this up, you screw up everything else. (And sometimes you will.) Thankfully, there is always a way back here–you only have to humble yourself and begin pursuing Christ again. Only in Christ, will you enjoy true freedom and joy.

2. Have impeccable integrity. Your greatest asset and liability in living life will be your integrity because your character is integral to your leadership, your marriage, your reputation, and your influence. Be an honest, kind, and good in every scenario–as much as is in your power, eliminate the possibility of people have conflicting opinions about you. If you fail at something, let it be because someone else’s integrity has prompted them to make poor choices, not you. If you fall (and sometimes you will) with your integrity in tact, you will rise back up to the top. If your lack of integrity produces your failure, refer to life lesson number one. Remember, your ethics belong to you, and your reputation belongs to you. Stay away from people who tell you who you are or misrepresent you to others. Don’t give away that power or responsibility!

3. Work hard. Few characteristics will affect every area of your life like hard work. But please work hard because it’s the right thing to do. Don’t work for money, or money will own you. Don’t work for approval, or approval will own you. Work for satisfaction, for influence, for provision, for the sheer joy of doing something that will outlast you. And work at everything in your life that’s valuable first–your family (marriage/kids/parents & siblings, in that order), your spiritual growth, your relationships. Don’t just be good at your career. When you begin dying, you will not wish you had worked more; you will wish for more time with loved ones.

4. Dream big, without expectation. A goal or dream is something you work towards, and that is a worthy calling. An expectation, however, feels entitled; it always produces disappointment and bitterness because our expectations are invariably linked to our high opinions of ourselves. Instead of living a life with expectations of grandeur, live in contentment and humble anticipation of your next blessing. You will reap joy and gratefulness, and you will manage to do so above the rat race of our materialistic society. Influential dreams are realized through hard work, integrity, and blessing, after all. Just be who you’re made to be.

5. Have courage.  You will be afraid of many things in life, but you must push through the fear. The action of conquering fear, simply by moving forward, will propel you to do great things. But if you do nothing, fear will conquer you. And as history shows you, conquering produces tyrants. Don’t let fear be the tyrant of your life. Just keep moving forward in Jesus’ strength. And don’t think that a friend, spouse, or job will give you courage; it won’t. But it will exacerbate your fear.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”

Nelson Mandela

6. Make the world a better place. You can influence others and lead people toward health and happiness just by being who you were created to be. You will make the world better. Use your talents, give your time, sacrifice something for the greater good. People will follow, and lives will change. Doing small acts of kindness is much better than doing nothing.

7. Choose your friends wisely. See numbers 1-6. Your friends will affect your productivity in this area, and if they are not #1-6, they will not be great influencers. Choose people you admire to be your friends. Think longterm–not are they popular now?–but are they the kind of adult I want to be? Are they the kind of people I want my children to become? For that matter, invest time in becoming best friends with your siblings and us, for that matter. Yes, family members are often quite different from one another. That’s makes our bond stronger. You must choose to love one another and defend one another. Don’t stop investing in your siblings or parents just because you grow up and move away. These are some of the most important relationships you’ll ever have.

8. Show respect to everyone. Value the wealthy and the downtrodden, your neighbor and the emigrant. The elderly and the child. The handicapped and the ill. You should never outgrow manners; saying “Yes, sir” and “No, sir” never goes out of fashion. Even show respect to rude people; you have no idea what is happening in their lives at the very moment your lives intersect with theirs. Respecting people–even idiots–places you in a category where few people shine. Be one of those people!

9. Choose mentors and learn from them. Parents, teachers, coaches, neighbors, pastors, youth leaders. Whenever you meet someone with integrity, purpose, and Christlikeness, introduce yourself to him or her. Watch, copy, question, emulate. Few people become great without great men and women leading them along the way.

10. Regard the opposite sex with respect. When you date, do so with respect and honor for the other person’s beliefs, boundaries, and insecurities. You are responsible for your own body. That’s it, even after you’re married. Don’t take advantage of another person’s emotions, fears, or physical body for your own benefit, ever. Every person is another child of God; do not disrespect what God has made or the boundaries for purity and protection that God has set up. When you operate outside those boundaries, you reap the emotional, spiritual, and physical baggage that goes with it. Getting married doesn’t make respect any easier. In fact, it gets harder sometimes. You know their weaknesses and their vulnerabilities, so it’s easy to take advantage of that or target their insecurities to make yourself feel better or to get your own way. You must choose to see the value in your spouse like God sees value in your spouse. He/she wasn’t created to make you happy. Your spouse was created to glorify God. Just like you were.

Now go out into the big, wide world, and live your life well.

Got one! The last of eight tries. Under threat of not getting dinner.


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