Parents too often neglect and underestimate the power of forming early the inescapable habits of thought and life in their young children. By young, I mean birth to puberty.
Along with neglecting the opportunities we have to self consciously form and direct the thinking and life choices of our children is the tendency parents have to neglect becoming self conscious about the habits of life and thought they bring to parenting. We did not grow up in a vacuum and we bring to our children, for better or worse, the habits of our own childhood, our own parents, and our own families.
Parents, you grew up breathing in “the air” of broader cultural expectations, as well as your family’s cultural conventions and traditions. You are the product of years of applied expectations, responses to those expectations, and your own habits of thought and life that were built into your young life. When was the last time you asked yourself why you think a certain thing? Respond a particular way? Hold a particular conclusion or position? Practice a particular habit? Don’t do certain things and instead do other things in their place? Why do you think and do the things that you think and do?
One day your child will ask begin to ak you the big “why” questions. Why do we do that mommy? Why don’t we do that daddy? Why? Why? Why? What will you say?
The story is told of the mom who was asked by her daughter why the mom cut the end of the ham off before she baked it? The mom’s response was “because my mom always did.” The child, at the first opportunity, asked her grandma the same question. Grandma’s response was “because that’s what my mom always did.” The great grandmother was still alive so the girl was able to ask the great grandmother “why did you always cut the end of the ham off before baking?” Great grandmother’s response was “because my pan was too small for the ham to fit into the pan.”
Mindlessly carrying on a habit (of thought or practice) is like that. It is easily and often done, from generation to generation, and often without being questioned. Habits run deep and effect us all deeply. Let me ask you again, why do you think the way you do and practice the habits you practice, day after day, week in and week out?
With that being asked let me offer some things I think your child needs to learn as early as possible AND you need to be able to explain why. They are in no particular order.
- Life goes by quickly, much more quickly than you realize. Don’t procrastinate.
- Your health is a gift. Take care of it early and it will bless you later.
- Physical beauty will fade, but intimacy and friendship can grow deeper and more beautiful.
- People are far more important than any other thing in your life. Especially as you get older.
- Money is a tool, like a hammer. Use it like a tool but don’t let it consume you.
- You reap what you sow in every area of your life. It is inescapable. Apple seeds never grow watermelons. Never.
- Jealousy, envy, and covetousness are like poison. Embracing them is like drinking a poison hoping it will harm someone else.
- Some people are going to sometimes do better, and be more gifted than you. Kids are going to be smarter, stronger, richer, and quicker than you are. Accept it and be thankful for what you have.
- Own your possessions. Don’t let your possessions own you.
- You have one life. There are no do-overs. Life is not a “dress rehearsal.” Confess your faults and sins quickly and be quicker to forgive those who fail you. Hold no grudges.
Every day you wake up is a victory. Be thankful everyday.