How do I teach my kids lasting values for their life ahead? It is a common question, and for good reason. Even in an age of wanting children to grow up and be their own independent and successful people, we want our children to stand up for what is right, be virtuous, and share our strongest values. Family members and mentors in a child’s life may teach them how to hang a painting or cook their favorite meal, but practical life skills alone do not convey life lessons.
The stories of your past will leave the greatest mark. Your family’s shining seasons and blemished moments will carry on and ingrain the scales of justice and virtue for generations onward. Here are four things to keep in mind as you share old stories with younger generations.
1. Even strong fortresses crumble.
There are over 10,000 castles in Europe. Built to demonstrate and protect wealth and power, many of them have crumbled or become completely ruined. Try not to focus on the importance of high-dollar belongings and the “hard work” it took to make them. Those things will perish, and “hard work” is a subjective road to follow.
Consider instead items that carry stories of lessons and passions of the past, such as an old bench that was the mark of your grandfather stopping to trade his work boots for his house shoes and put away business for family. Share about that favorite photo that documents a new chapter in your life and what that turn meant for your wisdom.
God owns all our belongings at the end of the day. Many of them will crumble and fade, but the battles fought and the heart that beat inside the armor, those things will pass on for generations.
2. Talk about the good things.
It may seem obvious that you want to share the stories of weddings, new business launches, or favorite family members, but it is important to truly celebrate these good events in life and explain why you should celebrate them. The night that you drove 100 miles to rescue someone with a flat tire or the time you gave a friend a job, those things had an impact and are great ways to share strong values of generosity, selflessness, family, and more. What were the shining moments in your past and how are you changed by them?
3. Talk about where you had failures.
It is not always easy to talk about our worst days with those who are supposed to look up to us. Even so, with every story of defeat comes the important lesson that you are still here and you made it through. Highlighting the adversity and perseverance of you and your family or community or business is a great way to show younger generations the strength of what came before them. They will likely need those anecdotes when they hit their own hurdles. What are the stories that show your prior perseverance or lessons learned? What do you want them to avoid or what privilege of knowledge should they have?
4. Create big ideas.
Talk about what you and the rest of your family do well together. Create the space to allow everyone to share what they have loved from the past (your memories or theirs) and what makes them passionate. Include biblical lessons and God’s callings for family members. Where are the commonalities? Then you can find the big ideas that are your family. You can begin to shape a mission and vision together. It will likely be founded upon those lessons and values learned. This is a crucial final step to your new resolution: creating a way forward based on the values of your old stories.
What are you waiting for? Start the conversation. Many family values are caught, not taught. Throw out the line and consider what could happen. As more families follow a set of biblical values—generation after generation—our world will look dramatically different.
For more guidance on values according to your children’s stage of life, visit our guide: Building Life Long Values.