40 Lessons We Sought to Teach Our Children

Dennis and Barbara Rainey give ideas on how to focus on biblical priorities to help your kids grow in faith and character.

Dennis and Barbara Rainey

I will never forget that incredible moment when our daughter Ashley was born. The doctor cleaned her up and handed her to us. I (Dennis) wanted to blurt out, “Thanks for the gift, but where are the instructions?”

When we started out, we had a few ideas of what it meant to be a parent and raise children. Two years later we added a son and we realized that we had better become intentional about what we wanted to do as parents and teach our children.

As a result we began a list of 25 things we wanted to teach our children. Then it became 40, 50, and even more. (For your sake we’ve shortened the list back to the top 40.)

Some of these lessons began during the first year for each of our 6 children, while others were emphasized later during childhood or adolescence. Today, our children are adults and our role in their lives has changed. We have moved from being teachers to being cheerleaders and advisors, when asked. 

Raising children requires huge chunks of time, prayer, discipline, involvement, and relationship-building.

This list of values and traits has helped us focus on biblical priorities in raising children to become mature adults of faith and godly character. 

  1. Above all, fear God.
  2. Respecting authority -- trust and obey your parents.
  3. The importance of friendships.
  4. Be in love with Christ and focus on your relationship with Him, not just on doctrine or on biblical principles.
  5. Have compassion for the poor and orphans.
  6. Believe God for too much rather than too little.
  7. Real strength is found in serving, not in being served.
  8. The power of moral purity and a clean conscience.
  9. How to motivate people without manipulating them.
  10. How to handle failure.
  11. Keeping your promises.
  12. The power of the tongue for good or evil.
  13. Giving too much rather than too little.
  14. The importance of manners and common courtesies.
  15. Viewing life through God’s agenda -- the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
  16. Give thanks to God in all things.
  17. The importance of prayer.
  18. The art of asking good questions, carrying on good conversation.
  19. How to grow as a Christian.
  20. How to handle temptation.
  21. By faith, trusting Christ as your Savior and Lord, and sharing with others how to become a Christian.
  22. Seeking wisdom -- a skill in everyday living. Knowing how to make good decisions.
  23. Gaining a sense of God’s direction and destiny for your life.
  24. Staying teachable and not becoming cynical.
  25. Obtaining godly counsel.
  26. The importance of flexibility and adaptability to cope in life.
  27. Truth is best passed on through relationships.
  28. Leaving a legacy of holiness.
  29. Keeping life manageable. Prioritizing decisions.
  30. Taming selfishness -- learning you can’t always get your way.
  31. Choices are yours to make and results are yours to experience.
  32. Respecting the dignity of another person and of all people.
  33. Being faithful in the little things.
  34. Character is the basis of all leadership.
  35. Life isn’t fair -- don’t compare with or be jealous of others.
  36. Living by commitments, not by feelings.
  37. Expressing grace and forgiveness.
  38. A strong work ethic.
  39. Surrendering to the authority of Christ.
  40. How to handle your finances.

We should mention that, after number one, the items on this list are not presented in any order or priority. We realize the list may appear long and daunting. But we suspect that if you began a list of your own, you’d quickly find that it’s just as lengthy.

That’s because parenting is a long and challenging task. Fortunately we have a God who gives us the strength to accomplish the tasks He lays before us (Philippians 4:13).

We encourage you to lean on Him. No, we didn’t perfectly teach each and every one of these 40 things, but it was a guide to remind us of what was important. But we never stopped training, teaching and cheering them on.

As Galatians 6:9 tells us, “And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.”

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