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40 Lessons We Sought to Teach Our Children

Here's a list of values and character traits that helped us focus on biblical priorities in our parenting.

by Dennis and Barbara Rainey We will never forget that incredible moment when our daughter Ashley was born. The doctor cleaned her up and handed her to us. Dennis recalls that he wanted to blurt out, “Thanks for the gift, but where are the instructions?” 

When we started out, we had a few ideas of what it meant to be a parent and raise children. Two years later we added a son and we realized that we had better become intentional about what we wanted to do as parents and teach our children.

As a result we began a list of 25 things we wanted to teach our children. Then it became 40, 50, and even more. (For your sake we’ve shortened the list back to the top 40.) Some of these lessons began during the first year for each of our six children, while others were emphasized later during childhood or adolescence. Today our children are adults and our role in their lives has changed. We have moved from being teachers to being cheerleaders and advisors, when asked.  

Raising children requires huge chunks of time, prayer, discipline, involvement, and relationship-building. This list of values and traits has helped us focus on biblical priorities in raising children to become mature adults of faith and godly character.  

  1. Above all, fear God.
  2. Respect authority—trust and obey your parents.
  3. The importance of friendships.
  4. Be in love with Christ and focus on your relationship with Him, not just on doctrine or on biblical principles.
  5. Have compassion for the poor and orphans.
  6. Believe God for too much rather than too little.
  7. Real strength is found in serving, not in being served.
  8. The power of moral purity and a clean conscience.
  9. How to motivate people without manipulating them.
  10. How to handle failure.
  11. Keep your promises.
  12. The power of the tongue for good or evil.
  13. Give too much rather than too little.
  14. The importance of manners and common courtesies.
  15. View life through God’s agenda—the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
  16. Give thanks to God in all things.
  17. The importance of prayer.
  18. The art of asking good questions, carrying on good conversation.
  19. How to grow as a Christian.
  20. How to handle temptation.
  21. By faith, trust Christ as your Savior and Lord, and share with others how to become a Christian.
  22. Seeking wisdom—skill in everyday living. Knowing how to make good decisions.
  23. Gaining a sense of God’s direction and destiny for your life.
  24. Stay teachable and not becoming cynical.
  25. Obtain godly counsel.
  26. The importance of flexibility and adaptability to cope in life.
  27. Truth is best passed on through relationships.
  28. Leave a legacy of holiness.
  29. Keep life manageable. Prioritize decisions.
  30. Tame selfishness—you can’t always get your way.
  31. Choices are yours to make and results are yours to experience.
  32. Respect the dignity of another person and of all people.
  33. Be faithful in the little things.
  34. Character is the basis of all leadership.
  35. Life isn’t fair—don’t compare with or be jealous of others.
  36. Live by commitments, not by feelings.
  37. Express grace and forgiveness.
  38. A strong work ethic.
  39. Surrender to the authority of Christ.
  40. How to handle your finances.

We should mention that, after number one, the items on this list are not presented in any order or priority. We realize the list may appear long and daunting. But we suspect that if you began a list of your own, you’d quickly find that it’s just as lengthy. 

That’s because parenting is a long and challenging task. Fortunately we have a God who gives us the strength to accomplish the tasks He lays before us (Philippians 4:13). We encourage you to lean on Him. No, we didn’t perfectly teach each and every one of these 40 things, but it was a guide to remind us of what was important. We never stopped training, teaching, and cheering them on. As Galatians 6:9 tells us, “And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.”

Copyright 2013 by FamilyLife.  All rights reserved.

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