5 Life Lessons No Child Should Leave Home Without


We spend sleepless nights worrying about and planning our children's academic futures. Are we as burdened by how to shape their character?

Mom, do you have to turn everything into a life lesson?

My daughter has been asking me that question a lot lately.

In December, she’ll be 18. The sand in the hourglass is rapidly slipping away.

I’m running out of time. I’ve felt this overwhelming urgency to cram in every bit of wisdom, caution and truth that I can fit in before she walks out my door.

A trip to the grocery store morphs into a metaphor for how she needs to feed her soul.

A question about laundry becomes an object lesson for keeping her mind and thoughts clean.

It’s not quite that bad, but you get the idea. She’s positively brimming over with gratitude for my top-of-the-mind wisdom.

Looking back over these past 18 years as a mother, it occurred to me how much time and effort we as parents put into making sure our children are doing their homework.

We spend sleepless nights worrying about and planning their academic futures.

But are we as burdened by how to shape their character? Do we agonize as much about how we can encourage them to consider the eternal impact they can have with their lives and futures?

I cringe at the thought of how many times and in how many ways I’ve fallen short over the years.

But in my imperfect way, I’ve tried  hard to instill these life lessons in my children:

  • Love is selfless and tenacious.

The idea of “love” in our culture has become supremely selfish. We “love” when it meets our needs, makes us happy, suits our purposes. When things get difficult or messy in any relationship, the smart thing to do is check out. Disengage. This happens in marriages, in parent-child relationships and in friendships.

Real love — 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love — isn’t led by feeling or circumstance. It sacrifices and gives without an expectation that it will be returned in kind.

Motherhood gives us so many opportunities to model this kind of love for our children. Real love sets wise, healthy boundaries and stands firm, even when the other person is angered. Or pulls away. Because true love is not about us. It is driven by the best interest of the other person.

We can only show this kind of love through the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s completely contrary to our selfish nature. But when we do, we receive so much more than selfish “love” could ever give us.

 I’ve failed so many times to do this. But I’m encouraged by the fact that “His mercies are new every morning.” I can ask for forgiveness and start again. And that’s a powerful lesson to our children, too.

  • Failure is a good thing.

As a recovering perfectionist, this is a tough one for me. I want to do everything right the first time. I’ve been critical and controlling with my children. God has brought me a long way over the years, but it’s still a struggle.

We sometimes think we have to model things “perfectly” (there’s that word again) for our kids to absorb a lesson. I’ve found they learn more from my failures than my successes. And I’ve tried to impress upon them that they can also learn more from their own failures than when they get it right.

Everything I ever do in ministry feels risky and out of my comfort zone. I’ve taken some crazy leaps of faith — certainly not on my own power — and seen God do amazing things. My kids have seen it, too. It’s made an impression.

I hope they’ll always be bold enough to take some crazy leaps of their own — in spite of their fear of failure.  

  • Jesus is personal.

Growing up, God seemed very distant. I truly believed He loved “the world,” but I wasn’t sold on the notion that He really, truly loved me.

In my early 20s, I remember sitting in a church service – feeling bored and cold. I was tired of the “routine” of going to worship  an impersonal God. I prayed, “God, either You’re going to have to make Yourself real to me, or I just can’t do this anymore.”

Shortly after, I entered into an extremely painful period of my life — where God’s care for me and tenderness was felt in a deep and sweet new way. He felt real in my life like never before. Pain has a way of getting our attention. I never welcome it, but I’ve learned to appreciate the closeness with God that couldn’t happen without it. We’re just too self-focused when things are going well.

I’ve always encouraged my kids to pray specifically and often. I’ve told them over and over again of His grace. I’ve assured them that everything He does — the circumstances He allows, the boundaries He sets — are for our good.

That He has a unique plan and purpose each of them that only they can fulfill.

  • Character is more important than curriculum.

Yes, school is important. It helps form the values of perseverance, responsibility and hard work. But we’ve all known plenty of people who were extremely successful in school, but were incredibly lacking in character.

I’ve worried too much about school work and not enough about heart work.

Every day, I pray that the Holy Spirit can use my meager efforts to develop compassion and a passion for Him in their hearts.

Providing opportunities for our kids to serve is one of the best ways I’ve found to help kids get out of their own little worlds and develop hearts that want to make an eternal impact.

  • Truth isn’t trendy.

Truth doesn’t change just because the culture does. What is right and what is wrong remain the same. Because the Creator who set it all up doesn’t change. He doesn’t say, “Oh, that’s really inconvenient or hard. I’ll let you off the hook on that one.” He loves us too much to do that.

He never promised that following Him would be popular or easy. Quite the opposite.

In a culture where there is no respect for absolute Truth, it is incredibly difficult to raise children who see the value in it. It’s so much easier to “go with the flow.”

I can’t control my kids thoughts and actions. Only the Holy Spirit can transform their hearts. But I can be open to dialoguing and wrestling with them over these issues. I can tell them the Truth in the best way I know how — even when they roll their eyes and don’t want to hear it. Even when it makes them angry.

I want my annoying voice to stick in their heads — even as everything changes around them.

Moms, I have gotten so much of this wrong. I’ve missed opportunities. Modeled all the wrong things at times. But I serve a big God who can multiply and magnify my efforts.

For Him, time never runs out. And He’s a much better Teacher than I am. 


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