10 Things I Want to Teach My Child before He Turns 18


Ever have one of those epiphanies about your kid, the one where you realize that your baby is not “little” anymore — and is, in fact, well on his way to adulthood? This summer, it hit me like a sack of wet beach sand — my son is halfway to 18. Just 9 more years before he’ll be able to vote, join the military or (legally) get a tattoo. I recently read a post by Lindsey Mead Russell called 10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know before She Turns 10, and it got me thinking about what I’d like Alex to learn before he grows up.

1.  Be kind. To each other and to yourself. Smile. Be generous. One kind word can create a ripple effect that might change the way people around you feel today. If we could all remember to do this, imagine what the world would be like. (And yes, that means being kind to the girls in your class, too.)

2. Take responsibility for your actions. This is one of the toughest things to do in life, in my opinion. It’s hard (and humbling) to admit you’ve made a mistake, done something wrong or hurt someone. But being able to ‘fess up is one of the keys to being a strong, brave person.  Remember, it’s impossible to change without first accepting responsibility for your actions.

3. Find something to do that you’re passionate about. The fact is that we spend most of our lives working. If it’s possible to find something you love to do every day, you’ve won half the battle.

4. “You don’t have to attend every fight you’re invited to.” — James Lehman. Sometimes it takes more courage to walk away — or to not fight at all — than it does to throw a punch or say something cutting and cruel. You have the ability to decide for yourself whether to join a fight. You have the power not to join it, as well.

5. Positive thoughts get you much farther than negative ones. If you want to accomplish anything in life, telling yourself you can’t do it won’t help. Life isn’t always easy, but being positive (and surrounding yourself with positive people) can help you take the leap necessary to start living your dreams.

6. If you’re not trying, you’re not living. I don’t mean that you have to win at everything or be the best at everything, necessarily. Trying means you’re doing your best and not holding back — not coasting through life. When you look back, it always feels good if you can say, “I tried my best.”

7. Being popular is not the same thing as having friends. True friends are the people who will be loyal to you no matter what, and who care about what happens to you. They’re happy when good things happen to you and listen to you when you’re going through a hard time. Being popular might feel good, but it’s fleeting. Good friends will be with you for a lifetime.

8. Your uniqueness is a strength. Maybe you don’t like the same things everyone else does. (Snakes, frogs and lizards, for example, in my son’s case.) Maybe you don’t learn the same way, or see things the same way, either. That’s okay. Keep doing what you love to do. What makes you unique is also what will give you strength in life.

9. Don’t be afraid to hug. I’ve found that men who are able to hug and show affection are strong and feel comfortable in their own skins.

10. Everyone makes mistakes — even Mom and Dad. We are not perfect by any means, and we don’t know the answers to every question. (And you sure ask some good ones!) We make mistakes, but we love you and are trying our best every day to get it right.


Anything you would add to the list? What’s the one thing you would like to teach your child before he or she grows up?


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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