10 Lessons Every Parent Should Teach Their Children

by BTMediaINT

In this article, I cover 10 Lessons Every Parent Should Teach Their Children; no matter how busy life gets, these are the big ones that shouldn't be missed.

A few years ago, I was putting together some paperwork for a new business venture where I had to give an average number of hours worked per week. All told, it was closer to 90 than it was to 40.

While this isn't necessarily a problem in and of itself, I have three children at home who count on Daddy for more than just a paycheck, and I could tell right away that I had been neglecting that part of the "job". After taking the family away for a week, I realized just how bad I'd let things get.

This article touches on some of my mistakes, and how you can avoid them, and it also gives you, what are, in my opinion, 10 of the most important lessons a parent can teach their children.

Be Yourself

No Matter Who You Are

This is good advice for everyone, not just children, but it's especially important to instill this in kids from an early age. If you ask any parent what they want for their children, 99 times out of 100 you'll hear that all parents ever want is for their kids to grow up healthy and happy. Well, as history and experience have taught us: in order for anyone to be happy in life, you have to be true to who you are. 

Kids need the freedom to express themselves, and the only way they can do that is if they know that their parents support them no matter what. While this is a no-brainer for most parents, you'd be amazed at how often kids think that their parents love is conditional. Mine did. My kids were afraid that if they did something I didn't approve of, that I wouldn't love them.

As I found out (after a lot of subtle questioning) this feeling stemmed from them seeing me at work. Working in Politics, I'll be the first to admit that not every conversation I have on the phone is necessarily a page out of Dale Carnegie, that being said, I didn't know just how much my kids were picking up from seeing daddy deal with things. Needless to say, I've been much more careful about what they hear. 

The moral to this story, dear readers, is that, while you may know just how much you love your kids, they sometimes need to be reminded. Since our talk, I've tried to make it a point to tell all of my children how much I love them at least once a day. While I may miss a day here and there due to the crazy hours I work, overall, they are getting the message. My wife and I have already noticed a huge difference in their behavior and attitude.


Keep Your Priorities In Order

"Don't Sweat The Small Stuff"

When our kids are young, it's easy for them to keep their priorities in order because we do it for them ("Do your homework", "Brush your teeth", "Time for bed", etc.). As they get older however, things start to change; we give them more responsibility and hope that the repetition has turned into habit. As we begin to micromanage their lives less and less, and they start to gain more control over their lives, it's important for parents to make sure that they know, not only what to do, but why to do it.

When our kids are young, they have "kid problems" to deal with. Getting along with their siblings, keeping their grades up, and doing their chores are pretty much the biggest things on their plate (being in politics, I like to call them "fly-over problems"). As they get older however, there will be more and more variables added into the equation.

Things like extracurricular activities, hobbies, and (unfortunately) dating, will start competing for more and more of their time. While that's okay, and a normal part of growing up (except for the dating, I'm not a fan of that one), it's important that we make sure that our kids know how to prioritize these things in relation to their long-term goals (again, except for the dating. Did I mention I'm not a fan of that one?)

Take Chances

Don't Let Opportunities Become Regrets

One of the biggest lessons I've tried to teach my kids, is to never be afraid to take a chance. That if you want to be great, you need to attempt great things. Now you can call this a lesson in courage, or a commentary on bravery in general, but it's more than that. I'd like to think of it more as a lesson about character. About never being afraid to trust in who you are (which ties back in to the "Be Yourself" lesson), regardless of what other may think or say. 

As H. Jackson Brown said: "Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you'll regret the things you didn't do more than the ones you did.". This is a great lesson for adults as well. As I said earlier, kids need the freedom to express themselves, and taking chances is a big part of that. Give your kids the freedom to try things on their own, make their own mistakes, and most of all, to learn for them.

"Dare Mighty Things"

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Don't Forget To Have Some Fun

Stop And Smell The Roses

This is one I had to learn for myself not too long ago. Yes, hard work is important, and always striving to do your best is a great trait to possess, but hard work should not be an end unto itself. It's important to remember to have a little fun in life from time to time. On this one, I firmly feel that it's best to lead by example. 

As kids get older, and start to focus on school and getting into college, they can have a tendency to over do it, or as my wife calls it: "go into full on Hermione mode". While I'm probably guilty of emphasizing the importance of a good education a little more than necessary, I also like to remind the kids to take a break and go out and have some fun.

It doesn't have to be anything huge, or over the top either. I've learned that little things can have a huge impact on kids. Whether it's taking my daughters to an actual "tea party", or watching a game with my son, little things mean a lot them. From time to time, I also like to have (what I like to call "OMG" days, where we take the kids for something totally over the top.

Treat Others The Way You Want To Be Treated

There's A Reason They Call It The Golden Rule
“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”James D. Miles

This one should be common sense, but with all of the recent stories about teen suicide, apparently the message isn't getting through; kids (and adults for that matter) should have learned early on about treating everyone with basic respect and dignity. Again, this is another "lead by example" lesson, and one that you need to be careful with, because kids see everything, and I do mean everything.

Volunteering is a great way to help instill this lesson in your kids. Every summer, as a family, we get together with some other members of our church to put together Hurricane Kits for the less fortunate. I also have a dollar-for-dollar "match policy for donations with my kids; when they find a charity that they like and want to support, I match whatever they donate. Teaching kids that everyone is equal, and that all life is special, can go a long way towards helping them learn to treat others appropriately.

Forgive Quickly Or Not At All

Then Let It Go

This is one that a lot of people don't agree with me on, but to me it's important. Listen, I understand the philosophy behind "forgive and forget", but I'm also a realist. Eventually, people will hurt you, whether by accident, or by design, they will do something that causes you pain. When this happens, there are really only two possible outcomes: either you will forgive them, or you won't. My point here, and what I try to teach my kids, is that forgiveness is, by definition, unconditional.

Where you run into problems, is when you try to attach a rider to forgiving someone. Maybe it's the fact that I'm a full blown child of the 80's, but that's more under the category of "trust, but verify", not forgiveness. Which ever method you choose, make your decision and move on. Nothing is served by dwelling on things you can not change.

Lessons From The Great Communicator

Learn One From The Gipper
Ronald Reagan
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Never Make A Decision In Anger

Take Time To Make The Right Decision

We've all heard the old "count to 10" advice when we're angry. In the age of Twitter, Facebook, and Social Media connectivity, it's more important than ever to teach our children about restraint. It's not like when we were kids, now, with the Internet, one bad post made in anger, or a snarky tweet made in the heat of the moment, can follow you for years.

My personal philosophy is to take a day. If in 24 hours you're still just as mad, then you can respond as necessary. If not, then you've saved yourself a big headache by acting out of anger. This is one time politics helps with parenting, because it's the same principal we use in a particularly negative campaign: Evaluate, Analyze, Plan, and Attack. 


Evaluate: Make sure you know exactly what it is that has made you angry. A lot of times you'll find that you're not really mad about what you think you're mad about.

Analyze: Make sure that there was no miss-communication. One of the most negative campaigns I've ever been apart of, or even heard about, was started by a typo on a memo written by a volunteer. 

Plan: Take a day (or longer) to plan out a response. I always, always, always advise starting small. As they say, you can't "put the toothpaste back in the tube", so remember to be gracious when at all possible. You can always escalate later if need be. 

Attack: Attack is perhaps too strong a word, but it's accurate. What ever you have planed to do, do it and be done with it. Don't hold grudges, don't harp on the subject. When  an argument is over, let it be over. 


Read As Much As Possible

Being Well Read Is Never A Bad Thing... Ever

There really isn't a whole lot to say about this one, it should be self explanatory. Not only does reading help children build larger vocabularies, improve their language and communication skills, and write more effectively, it also introduces them to characters and experiences that are unlike anything they can find in even the best Hollywood blockbusters. 

Our imaginations can take us places better than any special effects department, so make sure that your kids don't miss out on these amazing adventures. 


Great Books For Kids

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh (Aladdin Fantasy)

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Where the Red Fern Grows

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Tuck Everlasting By Natalie Bobbit

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Never, Ever Stop Learning

Knowledge Is Power

Like reading, this is another one that's pretty self explanatory. Personally, I love watching shows like "The Universe" and "Myth Busters" and of course, my old "Mr. Wizard" re-runs. My kids, as a result, have learned to love them also (especially when they blow things up on Myth Busters).

Living in Central Florida, we have tons of great educational possibilities in the area. There are museums, science centers, and my personal favorite, St. Augustine, all within a couple hours drive. No matter where you live, I'm positive that if you look around, you'll find some amazing learning opportunities for your kids. 

One of the best "trips" we ever took, was to the Orange County Court house. I had to go drop off some paperwork and I took the kids with me. After I was done, we just wandered around, and I gave them a little lesson on how a "courthouse works". A judge who was standing in the hall talking to someone overheard my little lesson, and she took the kids into a real courtroom, let them sit in her chair, and even bang her gavel. Needless to say, the kids loved it.

Even the most mundane tasks that we do everyday can be wondrous adventures for children, if for no other reason than it let's them spend more time with us. A trip to the dry-cleaner, the bank, or even the dreaded DMV can turn into an amazing lesson for kids and help them build a love of learning that will stick with them their whole life. 

Sex Is Not Love

Forget What You've Seen On T.V. And In The Movies

Being a father of two daughters, this is one that needs plenty of attention. Our kids are having to deal with sex much earlier than we ever had to when we were children. Now, I'll leave the social commentary on the subject for another day, what I will say is this: all across the country, kids as young as 11 and 12 are being pressured for sex.

Again, this is another unpopular topic with some parents, I've gotten phone calls from angry mothers who have complained about me talking to my daughters about this, because it contradicts what they have told their kids about sex, but I couldn't honestly care less about their opinion on the subject. This is too important an issue to perpetuate the "fairy tale scenario" that most parents go with.

I'm sure most of you can remember getting some version of the "when a Mommy and Daddy love each other" sex talk when you were young, or you probably had a friend who did. This may have been okay back then when sex wasn't nearly as pervasive in society as it is now, but these days, it's a joke. Sex is everywhere in today's society, and so we need to teach our kids to deal with the reality in front of them.

The main lesson I have tried to teach my daughters, and my son, is that sex does not equal love. As children, they get an incomplete perspective of love because they're prime examples are their mother and I. The flip side to this, and the Catch-22, is that, as parents, we protect them from a lot of things that we don't feel that they're mature enough to deal with. So the image of "love" that they get is this idyllic relationship that they see.

Now while I am in no way advocating "full disclosure" of all of the intimate details of your relationship with your spouse/significant other to your kids, it is okay, and in fact helpful, to "pull back the veil" a little and let them see that actual, honest-to-goodness love is more than just saying "I love you".

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Updated: 06/01/2012, BTMediaINT
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BTMediaINT on 06/07/2012

@Pinkchic18 Thanks for stopping by, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I would say that it's safe to say that my kids have taught me just as much as I've taught them.

Pinkchic18 on 06/07/2012

This is a wonderful list of lessons! And i totally agree. Great job here!

BTMediaINT on 06/06/2012

@BrendaReeves I'm glad you liked the article. My kids are definitely keeping me on my toes lol. I'm grateful that they're really great kids or my life would be much more difficult.

BrendaReeves on 06/06/2012

Nice article. It wasn't until my kids were grown and out the door that I thought, "Whew! That was a lot of responsibility."

katiem2 on 06/04/2012

BTMedialNT, I understand what you mean, you become a parent thinking you will teach them everything not fully prepared for what amazing insights and lessons we learn from them. Amazing :) K

BTMediaINT on 06/04/2012

@Katiem2 Thank you so much for the great feedback. I thought I was a fairly educated man, until I had kids that is, lol. These tips are some of the "trial by fire" lessons I've learned over the years.

katiem2 on 06/04/2012

Oh how brilliant, I love this as I'm an advocate for children and understand giving them direction, purpose and a strong guideline and a positive path is paramount to their well being, success and happiness. Great article! :) K

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