I love lists.
I make lists for everything. Grocery list. Get well card list. Patients I need to call and check on. A list (in order of sequence from dirtiest room to least dirty) of my household chores. I thought I’d share a list of do’s and don’t’s that I’ve concocted in attempting to raise Christian children. Sadly, I think most of these items used to be standard, but now, seem to pleasantly surprise people when they take note of them in today’s children, because they so rarely see them happening.
1. Teach them manners.
This includes many, many subsets, but first and foremost, teach them to speak respectfully to others, especially their elders. And by elders, I don’t mean decrepit and old, I mean anyone older than them that is not a child. Even then, teach them to speak respectfully to their peers.
- When speaking to adults: say “Yes ma’am, No ma’am. Yes, sir, No, sir.” I used to believe this was only a “southern thing”, but I was proven wrong by a gentleman from Michigan recently who called me “Ma’am” because that’s what he was raised to do. (I have to brag on my sweet husband here- he answers me with “yes, ma’am or no, ma’am”, as well as our nine-month old daughter. He respects both of us, and this is one way he shows it.)
- Teach them how to hold a door open for others. This applies to boys and girls, but if both are present, teach the boy to open it for the girls. My husband always encourages our son to hold the door open for others, including for me and his little sister.
2. Teach them how to talk to others.
I don’t mean using the ma’am’s and sir’s, although that is a good thing to do; I mean literally how to talk to people.Teach them how to look people in the eye when speaking to them. Teach them how to communicate without using an electronic device as the source of communication. No one can just sit down and talk to each other anymore. Teach them how to talk, but also how to listen. It’s important for children to realize part of respecting another person is listening to what they have to say. Teach them to turn off or put away their phones at the dinner table. Teach them that being able to speak, actually speak to someone, is acquired with practice.
3. Teach them how to shake hands.
This applies to both girls and boys. For boys, teach them that a good, strong handshake is a sign of confidence. It can mean “Hello, nice to meet ya” or it can mean “I say what I mean, and I mean what I say.” For girls, teaching them how to shake a man’s hand or squeeze and pat another woman’s hand can mean, “I may be a girl, but I’m strong and smart,” as well as, “I’m here for you, and I mean it.” As a nurse practitioner, every time I meet a new patient, man or woman, I give them a good, solid handshake or squeeze to show I’m confident and that I care. Most of the time, they seem pleasantly surprised and almost immediately at ease.
4. Teach them to be grateful.
If someone gives something to your child as a gift or simply holds the door open for them to pass through, teach your child to say, “Thank you.” Teach them that being sincerely grateful is part of being a Christian. Don’t let your child whine that they didn’t get the gift they wanted or ignore simple acts of kindness. Both will leave impressions that cannot be erased.
5. Teach them to be helpers.
A child who learns to pitch in and help at an early age is the child who grows up with a purpose and gives back to society. Even if it is as simple as carrying in a bag of groceries or picking clothes up off the floor, teach your child to do their part. Another aspect of this is helping in public. If you go eat at a friend’s house, have your child help clear off the table or wash the dishes. Make sure your child always cleans up the toys he or she gets out when visiting someone else’s home.
6. Teach them to be hospitable.
Something that seems to have vanished with the times is hospitality. Teach your children what it looks like to bake a pie and take it to someone who is sick. Teach them to invite the visiting preacher into your home for lunch. Show them what it means to help host a fundraiser or community event. Don’t just let them watch, let them help. It will become a way of life for them. It helps them understand what it means to be a real friend to others.
7. Teach them how to take a compliment.
If someone tells your little girl how beautiful her hair is, teach her to smile and say “Thank you.” Don’t let her run off without acknowledging it or say “I know”. Both are extremely unattractive. Again, teach them to be gracious.
8. Teach them how to play outside without any toys.
Let your child use their creative genius to play. And for goodness sakes, let them go outside. We live in a world where our children must be stimulated and pacified 24/7. Teach them how to pacify themselves (once they are old enough and it’s safe for them to do so, of course) by getting creative and enjoying God’s green earth without our interference.
9. Teach them how to “do without.”
One of the biggest mistakes my generation has made as a whole is convincing ourselves that we have to do the best and have the best things for our children at all times. In a Pinterest and Etsy kind of world, a three year old birthday party can turn into a day at Disney World. Let’s get real, folks. We are going to produce the most self-centered, egotistical bunch of kids ever if we don’t back off and let them become another person in this world rather than the one person at the center of the universe that the world revolves around. It’s o.k. to let them feel special now and again, but don’t let your child begin to expect to have the best of the best of everything all the time.
10. Teach them to be honest.
Teach them that it’s wrong to steal. Teach them that a hard day’s work for honest pay is a Godly initiative. Don’t teach them to feel entitled to everything. We came into this world with nothing, and we will leave it in the same way. Teach them to tell the truth, even when they’ve messed up. Teach them to be honest with their friends. Trust is something that is very difficult to regain once it’s lost.
11. Teach them to be a good friend.
Good friends are not only honest with each other, they are forgiving of one another’s mistakes. They seek out ways to brighten their friends’ day, and they keep their commitments to each other. It’s hard to find a good friend sometimes, but it’s even harder if you don’t know how to be a friend yourself. Help your children find and keep good friends.
12. Teach your child to be a loner.
Wait… didn’t you just say to teach them to be a good friend? Yes. I did. Now I’m telling you to teach your child to be a loner…. when everyone else is doing something that contradicts God’s will. Teach them that sometimes, being a Christian means doing the right thing, even if no one else is doing it. Help your children to understand that the one true and constant thing that they can hold onto in this life is God’s Word and His promise that if we obey His will, we will spend eternity with Him after this life is over. If they can understand that, then everything else will fall into place one way or another. Give them the strength and understanding that if they are living in accordance to God’s law, even if they are doing it alone, nothing else really matters.