How to Teach Your Teens the True Definition of Success
Success by worldly standards paints a picture of wealth, notoriety, and self-exaltation. Without the consideration of God’s will and divine purpose, this secular definition of success teaches our teens to be self-driven and self-focused. This is contrary to the biblical world view that, in Christ, we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). It is for His glory and the good of mankind that we purpose to live successful lives on earth.
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I’ve heard it said that many lessons in life are “caught” instead of taught. And to a certain degree, it’s true. Parents of teens hope that by demonstrating upstanding character, hard work, and faith, their kids will catch on and naturally follow suit.
But in reality, there’s a healthy balance between merely living as good examples to our teens and actually teaching them the true definition of success. After all, if we don’t teach them, someone else will.
Success by worldly standards paints a picture of wealth, notoriety, and self-exaltation. Without the consideration of God’s will and divine purpose, this secular definition of success teaches our teens to be self-driven and self-focused.
This is contrary to the biblical world view that, in Christ, we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). It is for His glory and the good of mankind that we purpose to live successful lives on earth.
If you’ve been wondering how to teach your teens the true definition of success, here are a few practical ideas that incorporate the bigger picture of God’s divine purpose.
Teach Them about God's Original Design
Often, as parents, we start with our children’s goals in mind rather than starting with God’s original design. This can lead to a self-centered view of life and even lead our kids away from the path God has purposed for them.
When teaching your teens the true definition of success, start at the beginning of creation. Establish the foundation of God the Creator, forming people in His own image, and giving them dominion over the earth. Emphasize the blessing of God on His creation as a way to point your teens towards living their lives as reflections of their Maker.
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth. (Genesis 1:27-28 NKJV)
As the writer of Ecclesiastes once penned, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
Once you’ve established a solid foundation that points to God’s order of things, you can then teach your kids to pursue healthy life goals that align with the Creator’s original intent.
How to Help Your Teen Find Purpose in Life is another helpful resource for you to consider.
Teach Them to Be Others-Centered
It’s human nature to think of ourselves first. But true success displays a heart for others and a willingness for self-sacrifice.
Motivational speaker, Brian Tracy, once said, “Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’”
The Bible is full of reminders to love, serve, and help one another. And the sooner we teach our teens to be others-centered the better. While it’s not easy breaking through the “me first” mentality, there are things we can do as parents to cultivate a mindset to serve others. Here are a few practical ideas:
1. Get Involved in Missions
The thing about missions work is it doesn’t always include traveling to faraway places. People need the Lord right in our own communities. Whether you encourage your teen to serve locally, or sign up for an overseas mission trip, teach them the importance of others-centered missional outreach.
2. Promote an “I’m Third” Mentality
It was Captain Johnny Ferrier who unknowingly started the “I’m third” legacy. As a pilot who was part of the Minute Men, performing air shows all over the U.S., his plane stalled during one fateful event in 1958. Through a self-sacrificing act of bravery, Johnny Ferrier chose not to eject himself from the plane, but instead, steer the air craft towards an open spot away from neighborhoods. Later, his wife found an old card in his wallet with the words “I’m third.” Johnny Ferrier purposed to live successfully by putting God first, others second, and self third.
3. Emphasize the Golden Rule
Most Kindergarteners learn the golden rule, which is actually a Bible verse in Matthew 7:12 that says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
When teaching your teens the true definition of success, emphasize the golden rule and remind them of the two greatest commands in the Bible: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love others as yourself.
Teach Them to Follow God's Dream
If we believe that God has a purpose for every person—a purpose that glorifies Him and builds other up—we will be diligent to teach our kids to follow that purpose in the search of success.
So often today, we hear things like, “Follow your heart,” or “Follow your dreams.” And while there are good intentions behind those phrases, the Bible says in Jeremiah 17:9 that, “our hearts are deceitful above all things.”
Instead of encouraging our teens to follow their own dreams, let’s teach them to follow God’s bigger dreams for them. His plans always exceed our own and lead to greater things for His glory and our good.
Teach Them to Define Success with a Heavenly Perspective
Being our kids’ biggest cheerleader is one of the joys and delights of parenting. We should encourage them in their gifts and strengths and do everything we can to help them live productive and successful lives.
However, let’s also keep in mind a heavenly perspective of things. The treasures we store up on earth will not be taken with us. It’s important to teach our teens that success according to the world’s standards is temporary. There is an eternity yet to come, and true success is found in the righteousness of Christ alone.
This discussion may be one of the most important discussions we can have with our kids. As we point them towards Jesus, and what it means to receive Him for salvation, we are teaching them the true meaning of success—eternal success.
While it’s true that many things are “caught” instead of taught, let’s not grow complacent in teaching our teens the most important facets of success. And, as we continue to be good examples, let’s also be good teachers of what true success means. After all, if we don’t teach them, someone else will.
Jennifer Waddle considers herself a Kansas girl, married to a Colorado hunk, with a heart to encourage women everywhere. She is the author of several books, including Prayer WORRIER: Turning Every Worry into Powerful Prayer, and is a regular contributor for LifeWay, Crosswalk, Abide, and Christians Care International. Jennifer’s online ministry is EncouragementMama.com where you can find her books and sign up for her weekly post, Discouragement Doesn’t Win. She resides with her family near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains—her favorite place on earth.
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