Being a parent is no easy task. Between helping them with academics, building a strong personal character, showing them the importance of honest living, raising them to be productive, and teaching social cues, where do we even begin? The pressure can be overwhelming at times. However, I believe it all boils down to three important values.
And, let’s get some of the usual “values” that people heap on their kids out of the way: I don’t care if my children are good at sports. There, I said it. This may cause some to balk, even in my own sports-crazed city where it seems that nearly every child is wearing shoulder pads or shin-guards by the time they’re 5. Sometimes that brings a bit of pressure. I’m not phased by it, though.
It’s not that I’m against sports. I love football and I grew up loving and following baseball. Every Saturday you’ll find me glued to my TV rooting for THE Ohio State Buckeyes. And if one of my sons or daughters suddenly had a hankering to play sports, we’d let them, providing it didn’t break the bank. But it’s not the most important thing out there.
And if I’m honest, neither is getting straight A’s in school. Sure, I want them to work hard on their academics, and I expect them to graduate on time, but straight A’s? The top colleges knocking on my door? Doesn’t really matter to me.
Do you want to know what does matter to me when it comes to my children?
And not just any values. Rather, what I believe to be the most important values that any person can grow up knowing and applying to their life. I’m talking about something that money can’t buy, sports can’t teach, and academics can’t grade. I’m talking about love, generosity, and servanthood.
1. Love Unconditionally
By far the most important value I want my children to grow up with is a genuine love for others. I want them to know a love that’s unconditional, no strings attached. Love is a powerful thing: it can change a person’s life. Love brings hope to hopeless places and light where there was once darkness. I pray that my children will look at all people with a deep respect and an unconditional love simply because they are human.
2. Give Extravagantly
My wife and I pride ourselves on being generous people. We love to give: we believe in giving our waiters and waitresses big tips, we feel called to give to causes we believe in, and it fills us up to be able to help people who have less. We talk about all of these things openly in front of our children and when they ask us questions about tithing to our church or sending money to a missionary, we are honest and tell them why we do these things.
Life is too short to live life with a closed hand. This world tends to turn a cold, selfish shoulder to those who are less fortunate. The way to live a complete life, in my opinion, is to give most of it away. We do this publicly in front of our children because we want them to learn this value and live it out in their own lives as adults someday.
Wherever my children go in life, whoever they become, or whatever they choose to do, I want them to learn the value of serving others. I hope and pray they choose to use some of their free time to serve whole-heartedly.
Now, those are the three qualities I want to instill in my children, but I know what some of you are thinking. What about integrity, honest living, social productivity, character, etc., etc., etc.?
Do you want to know something else I firmly believe about those three values? They’re umbrellas. What I mean by this is that if my children can learn these values and apply them to their lives, they’ll cover the rest; by living with these three values, integrity, honesty, productivity, and many other values are likely to fall into place. Honestly, I don’t think anyone can really love others and be a person who lives without integrity. I don’t think dishonesty can exist if a person is really generous.
At the end of the day, I don’t care about my children’s life accomplishments. I mean … I do and I will be proud of each of them. (I’m already more proud than I could ever be of each of my children.) But what I will be proudest of is their genuine hearts. I pray they grow up to have hearts of generosity and hearts for serving others. In a lot of ways, they already have both and it’s so encouraging to us.
I’ve ended posts like this before by pointing this all back to me and this post is no different. If I expect my children to grow up to love others unconditionally, give extravagantly, and serve the world with all of their hearts, I’ve got to model all of this in my own life. The world teaches the opposite, so it’s up to my wife and I to teach these values to them.
It’s pressure for sure, but I don’t mind this because personally, it’s good for me. We are both far from perfect when it comes to these three values, but we continually believe in their transforming power. What about you?More On