15 Things You Should Teach Your Kids To Prepare Them For the Future


Last night I was completely irresponsible and kept my son up until one in the morning on a school night, hacking on 3D printed models and laser cutting a toy box for them. Today on a road trip across town it reminded me of the countless hours my father spent with me building computers and helping me setup BBS systems, not to mention all the other physical tinkering projects that were not technology related. It made me realize, nearly every advantage I have in life I can directly tie back to the awesomeness of my parents. They weren’t perfect (and still aren’t), but they prepared me for the future in ways they probably don’t even realize.

I regularly feel I am failing to prepare my children for the future. To help me do a better job I have decided to put down the invaluable teachings of my own parents.

Dad thanks for teaching me:

  • Nobody ever said life was fair. I must have heard this ten thousand times growing up. I probably hated hearing it 9,999 of those times. This taught me that there are somethings in life you can control. There are somethings in life you can’t control. Spend your time focusing on the things that you can influence, not the ones you can’t. Dwelling, sulking, pissing or moaning about the one’s you can’t is just wasted time you could be spending to stack the deck in your favor on the ones you can. It’s something I now tell my own children regularly.
  • Shit in one hand and want in the other, see which one gets fuller faster. This taught me a few things. Most importantly it taught me sitting around and “wanting” something is about as useful as shitting in your own hand. If you want things in life, you are gonna have to get off your ass and work to make them happen. Secondly as I age it has made me realize that material “stuff” isn’t all that rewarding. So constantly thinking about all the stuff you “want” is probably keeping you from the things that ultimately matter the most.
  • If it’s worth doing. It’s worth doing right. I hate when you are right. Which is most of the time. This taught me so vividly to have pride in the work that you put your time into. Don’t half ass life. If you can’t care enough to do it well, you probably shouldn’t be doing it all.
  • To be insanely curious. You let me know that quitting was bad, but not trying was infinitely worse. It was okay to tear things a part. It was encouraged to take risk in the pursuit of finding something new. Ask questions about everything.
  • To swim in the sea of knowledge. You did this by example. You are the most voracious reader I have ever seen. You taught me that if I am idle and there is something to read, read it. Learn from it. Everything is worth learning from. Recently my kids thought I was crazy for checking out 10 items from the library. When I told them we used to leave with fifty plus items on our trips they didn’t believe me that you could even check out that many, but because they are curious, they asked the librarian who confirmed it’s still possible.
  • Place matters. Explore your surroundings. I love Arizona. I never understood why you wanted to be a cowboy. Why you had an affinity for the wild west or what motivated you to move here and never leave, but your steadfastness in taking me to off-road, hike, camp and explore everything from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the top of the ski resorts in this beautiful place has made a lasting impression. I now worship the sun and crave to be in beauty of Arizona as much as possible. Spending time exploring the United States every summer in an RV taught me to appreciate home even more. I was never left wanting to know what the other side was like. You showed it to me regularly, while teaching me to love Arizona for its own uniqueness.
  • To tell stories. I still always wish you would write a book. I am secretly hopeful you have been writing them and hiding them all your life and will leave them as a surprise to us someday when you are gone. This is because you are the most masterful story teller I know. You taught me my own imagination is more powerful than any computer or Hollywood masterpiece. That our ability to construct characters, worlds and stories with passion and emotion is quite possibly the thing that makes us most human.
  • If two people are the same, one of them is obsolete. When describing teams in work, play or sports you brought home that trying to be someone else is just stupid and useless. That we each have our strengthens, talents and backgrounds. That they are unique and leveraging them is what provides value when working with others. A basketball team doesn’t need 5 Michael Jordans.

Mom thanks for teaching me:

  • To have a sense of humor. You tell the funniest, raunchiest and most playful stories and jokes. You taught me that a life without laughter is a life not worth living. That if you can’t laugh at yourself or with others, that you will be miserable. Discipline and seriousness are important, but without playfulness you have nothing.
  • To be proud of who I am. You let me know that if someone doesn’t like you for who you are that it’s their loss. If you have to change who you are to be accepted, you aren’t really accepted. Even when you are nervous and feel inadequate, being yourself builds real relationships. I forget this all the time. I am so grateful I married a woman that is frighteningly authentic and keeps me from not being me when I should know better. Constantly reminding me that being vulnerable and transparent builds deep relationships.
  • To be empathetic. You showed me everyone deserves a chance. That we can’t know where someone has been or what they have been through. Give them the benefit of the doubt and extend them the grace you wish people would give you. I can’t count the number of times you went out of your way to make my friends and others feel accepted and taken care of when the people closest to them refused to forgive them.
  • We all make mistakes. You let me know that while there may be consequences for your actions, that at the end of the day you would always be there and be accepting. Sharing your own mistakes in life openly and letting us always know that making mistakes is part of living a full life.
  • Family matters. Damn we can all hate each other sometimes. You let us all know (and still do) that regardless of how pissed we may be at each other that we are all family. That having deep connections with each other is far more important than the petty shit we end up being mad at each other for. You are the ultimate mediator, always trying to force the family to reconcile its differences.
  • To Embrace chaos. Maybe it was the raising of twins, but you always thrived on events that were chaotic. Birthdays, events and gatherings in our house were always one step away from chaos, but it never felt that way because it was normal. Our family was loud and vibrant. Animated and passionate. Full of laughter and mischief. It has taught me to adapt to about anything life throws my way.
  • Not to judge people too quickly. You had a knack for finding the best traits in strangers and new acquaintances. Other parents would be focused that the kid smoked, had tattoos, wore pink hair or had a foul mouth. You looked beyond that and got to know them first. You understood they were insanely good at music or wickedly smart. You always saw potential and not faults first.

I am sure I missed a whole lot of other things you have taught me, but don’t think it is because I didn’t find them valuable. I just haven’t had enough sleep to be mentally astute. Mom and Dad, I hope that I can teach my kids half as much as you have taught me.

So what life advantages have your parents taught you? What are you looking to instill in your families?

3 thoughts on “15 Things You Should Teach Your Kids To Prepare Them For the Future

  1. It’s nice to know that some of the knowledge we taught you actually stuck. Thank you for all the kind things you had to say. Of course, you know it made me cry!

    You have grown into a fine young man that your Dad and I are very proud of. You are an awesome dad too. There isn’t a manual for being a parent. You just have to “wing it” one day at a time. You were given some great kids to work with as were Dad and I. That is the key to success…..have great kids.

    Just remember………no matter what, you are loved.

  2. Excellent advice Derek, and you make some wonderful points. I really appreciate you sharing this. It hit home.

    You asked, “what life advantages have your parents taught you?”

    My Dad taught me that with enough determination, “I could do anything”. With his help, I changed out my clutch and throw-out bearing on a car in high school; used to tune-up the cars gapping plugs and marking timing belts (with a timing light) and general contracted a house in Fountain Hills in my 20’s; stood on the roof and pounded nails into the trusses and buried a time capsule in the walls. I used to ride trails horseback among the grizzilies in Montana with him, then I learned to play polo in my 30’s. He taught me to shoot, pull the trigger between your heartbeats, fish, tie flies, drive a boat, sneak up on (and smell) a deer in the woods, put together a Heathkit radio, and not judge people. The guy in the car dealership with the suit and tie is probably going to buy one car, while the farmer with the overalls might be there for his new fleet.

    My Mom, who is Japanese, has “taught me the cultured side of things, and to share what you know”. I grew up at a time, when some people were not so nice to her, because she was different and from somewhere else. In fact, the somewhere else, was a country from not too long ago that America was at war with. They judged her from afar, and I learned early on about ignorance of others. Despite some discrimination, she prevailed, and owned and operated her own business (with a storefront) for over twenty years in Montana. She speaks several languages, sent me to private art school, riding lessons, piano lessons, and has a circle of life-long friends who are international opera singers, artists, and creative types. They are vibrant, laughing, always moving, doing, and working. They are never idle. I am proud to say I hold a second generation friendship to some of her friends’ daughters, who live in Japan. Mom is an octogenarian, living in Montana, still exercising every day, laughing, loving and sharing. She volunteers weekly at the Rescue Mission, and the library, and she loves teaching kids to read.

    “Just because another person has more money than you, does not mean they are any ‘richer’ than you”. At my Dad’s modest funeral, there was standing room only in the church, and he left so many good memories with friends, the people sharing stories publicly went on for 90 minutes at the end of the service. (Take note: I regret not getting it recorded, it was priceless hearing about some of the stuff he’d done, and for others.) When he was active duty military, members from his squadron followed him from one military base to another, hoping to be transferred under his command. I didn’t notice this while it was happening, and didn’t realize until I was much older that he was a natural leader. In contrast to Dad’s life, at the funeral of a very, very wealthy person I knew and admired, hundreds attended, but not one person stood to talk about the impact this person had made on their lives.

    “Money is a tool, like a screwdriver, to be used.” Pay for everything when you have enough money to buy it, don’t use credit, take care of what you own, change the oil regularly, keep it clean, and ready to use. I knew what CD’s and stocks were at age 12. I wish I would’ve paid more attention to this part earlier.

    “Your word is your bond.” This is old school and people who understand this, know what it really means. If you say you are going to do something, or be somewhere, come hell or high water, snow or 60 below, it happened. Dad’s entire circle of people were like this. Unfortunately in this day of litigation, even written and agreed upon contracts are not honored by the greedy and selfish, as I’ve experienced.

    “Giving charity is not an opportunity to brag”. Don’t give charity expecting to be respected for it, or brag about it. Do it quietly. If you are blessed enough to help another, and feel compelled to do so, then do so anonymously.

    Your picture above (showing the little guy how to weld) reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Robert A. Heinlein. “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

    I say add to the above, sew, swim, shoot a gun and drive a stick shift, and you’re good to go for just about anything that is thrown at you.

  3. When my kids said that something was not fair, I remember telling them “fair is for buses, greenhorn” as in bus fare. While secular values crept into our day to day life, we tried to raise our kids according to a Christian world-view, which is compatible or similar to what you’ve listed. Its important for kids to ponder the “big questions” and come to a decision about what they believe. For example: Are there moral absolutes? What is the likely origin of the universe and life? What happens when we die?

    I don’t think anyone knows for sure, but everyone has beliefs regarding these questions and acts accordingly. The greatest danger to society is the assumptive nature of secularism regarding naturalism. We all ascribe to one or more “isms” so its healthy to know what they are and think critically about them.