40 Lessons We Sought to Teach Our Children

Here’s a list of values and character traits that helped us focus on biblical priorities in our parenting.


By Dennis and Barbara Rainey


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

When we started out, we had a few ideas of what our God-given assignment was as we raised children. Two years later we added a son, and we realized we needed to get intentional about what we wanted to do as parents and what we wanted to teach our children.

As a result, we began compiling 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 our top 40.) Some of these lessons began during the first year for each of our six children, while others were emphasized later during childhood or adolescence. Today our children are adults and our role in their lives has changed from being a “Teaching Mommy and Daddy,” to that of being cheer leaders and coaches … but only when asked!

Raising children requires huge chunks of time and energy, prayer, discipline, involvement, and relationship-building. Psalm 127:3-5 compares children to arrows, which means parents need to know and aim their arrows at “the. Target.” Our list of values and traits has helped us focus on biblical priorities in raising children to become mature adults of faith and godly character.

When we’ve spoken on children and the target, parents always come up and ask for our list.So here it is … with one caveat … may we encourage you to come up with your own list that you as parents, single parents, and blended family parents agree to?You’ll be glad you did.(by the way, these are NOT prioritized…that’s up to you!)


1. Above all, fear God.


2. Respect authority—trust and obey your parents.


3. The importance of friendships.


4. Grow in your love for Christ, and focus on your relationship with Him, not just on biblical principles.


5. Develop and express compassion for the poor and orphans.


6. Believe God for too much rather than too little.


7. Real strength is found in serving others, not in being served.


8. Moral purity and a clean conscience are powerful and are to be protected.


9. How to motivate people without manipulating them.


10. How to handle failure.


11. Keep your promises.


12. The power of the tongue for good or evil.


13. Be found guilty of giving too much rather than too little.


14. The importance of manners and common courtesies.


15. View life through God’s agenda—the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) and the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-38).


16. How to handle your finances (earning, giving, saving, spending and a budget).


17. Give thanks to God in all things.


18. The importance of prayer.


19. The art of asking good questions and carrying on good conversation.


20. How to grow as a Christian.


21. How to handle temptation.


22. By faith, trust Christ as your Savior and Lord, and share with others how to become a Christian.


23. Seek wisdom—godly skill in everyday living. Know how to make good decisions.


24. Gain a sense of God’s direction and destiny for your life.


25. Stay teachable and do not become cynical.


26. Obtain godly counsel.


27. The importance of flexibility and adaptability to cope in life.


28. Truth is best passed on through relationships.


29. Leave a legacy of that makes much of God.


30. Keep life manageable and protect your margins. Beware of scheduling your life so there’s no room for God’s little and big “interruptions.”


31. Tame selfishness—you can’t always get your way.


32. Choices are yours to make and results are yours to experience.


33. Respect the dignity of other people—all people.


34. Be faithful in the little things.


35. Character is the basis of all leadership.


36. Life isn’t fair—don’t compare with or be jealous of others.


37. Live by faith, not by feelings.


38. Express abundant grace and forgiveness.


39. A strong work ethic and protect your sabbath.


40. Surrender to the authority of Christ moment by moment, everyday.


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 begin a list of your own, you’ll 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, what the target is. We never stopped training, teaching, and cheering them on. As Galatians 6:9 tells us, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”


Now sit down with your spouse and give him/her the assignment of coming up with 25 things you would like to teach your kids and tell them that you will do the same. Together, hammer out a list that you both agree on and start on a plan to put it into action.

Copyright © by FamilyLife and TheRaineys.org. Used with permission.


This is too good to keep to yourself! Share with a friend or family member using the links below!

The Art of Parenting Podcast

The Art of Parenting Podcast is an excellent tool for all parents and you can listen to it now by clicking here.




The Art of Parenting book

To purchase The Art of Parenting book click here.

In The Art of Parenting, Dennis and Barbara will help you to experience God’s truth and apply his Word in your family by focusing your attention on four crucial elements in your children’s lives:

  1. Identity–understanding who they are in Christ

  2. Character–learning to live wisely and honorably

  3. Relationships–fostering godly connections with others

  4. Mission–understanding why they are here

When you apply biblical truths in these four areas, you can feel confident your children will have a foundation they can build upon for the rest of their lives.


The Art of Parenting Video Series Kit

To purchase The Art of Parenting video series kit at FamilyLife.com click here.



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