12 Lessons I Need My Kids To Know Before They Leave The Nest

by Salina Wuttke
Alistair Berg/Getty

I often wonder if I’m doing too much or too little to raise good human beings. Many articles discuss how the baby boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Zers were in some way damaged by their over-loving, under-loving, over-protective or under-protective parents. Of course, this isn’t encouraging news for the parents of our next generation, the Gen Alphas.

These days we as parents are trying to have and do it all. Our pace is frenetic; our lives are filled with activity after activity – all to ensure our kids are getting the best (fill-in-the-blank) out there. But I wonder how much of what they’re learning is truly meaningful?

During these blurred years of parenting, I’m trying my best to slow down, to be mindful of teaching them (and myself) these life fundamentals. Fortunately, I have 18 or so years with them to discuss and explore these ideas – many of which have been around longer than all our generations combined. I hope that despite the chaos of our lives and my many imperfections as a parent, these growth mindsets will help my children become decent, well-adjusted adults.

1. Adopt kindness as a way of life.

Always strive to be your best self, using kind thoughts, kind words, and kind actions. Be empathetic, be humble, be sincere, be moral, be helpful, be happy for other people’s wins. No gossip. No drama. But kindness doesn’t mean weakness – stand up for yourself or others if someone else is being unkind.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Plato

2. Cultivate gratitude.

Most of what you’ll deal with in life will be first world problems so check yourself before you start complaining. Pause often to tell yourself that you have enough. Every night pray for those who need prayers. Every morning pray with thankfulness for what you have. When feeling down, don’t dwell on the “me,” get out and help the “we.” Always send thank you letters.

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” – Aesop

3. Be self-aware.

Realize your strengths and weaknesses and how your actions are impacting the world around you. Power through your insecurities and moods. Even if you’re uncomfortable, say hello and smile. Shake people’s hands firmly and look them in the eye when talking. Practice good manners and good hygiene before someone else has to tell you. Learn what your body language and tone is saying, not just your words. Pay attention to the lies you might be telling yourself.

“He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.” – Lao Tzu

Salina Wuttke

4. Accept accountability.

Own your actions. Most predicaments are due to being a victim of yourself; if crises seem to be a trend for you, consider that you might be the source. Never blame your past for why you’re making poor decisions today. You’ve hit the lottery of birth in both time and place so you can control your path. Control the things you can change, consistently making wise, mindful choices that’ll add up to a successful life that you’ve rightfully earned.

“Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.” – Sigmund Freud

5. Find your inner tranquility.

Understand that we all get anxious and overwhelmed, so be kind to yourself and stop resisting your struggle – embrace it. Accept the present. Try to quiet your “monkey mind chatter” by thinking bigger. Take the “you” (i.e. the ego), out of your thoughts and think of time and seasons passing, the earth going round and round. Mindfully breathe. This temporal worry you are facing at this time — this too shall pass, and the world will still go on.

“Smile, breathe, and go slowly.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

6. Be mindful of how you’re filling your void.

We all come to this world with a void, a search for something meaningful to fulfill our lives. Money, cars, trends, social media – the pursuits of sensualists are buckets with holes (no pun intended). Fill your void with the spiritual or meditative. Learn to enjoy being alone. Slow down to question your life’s meaning and pace. Serve others. Connect with the people in your life deeply – below the surface-level. And create beautiful memories.

“When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.” – Viktor Frankl

7. Work to solve problems.

Being smart won’t sustain you long term. If there’s a challenge you can’t solve, take the time to figure it out. Most everything is solvable. When stuck, ask for help. Work hard to keep solving whatever life deals you, again and again – breeding confidence and an accomplished life. Accept you’re not perfect – you’ll make mistakes and fail. But fail fast and bounce back again. Be gritty, be resilient, stay motivated. Do any job to the best of your abilities.

“All life is problem solving.” – Karl Popper

8. Strive for moderation.

Learn to be moderate with food, exercise, technology, work, money, politics, spirituality. Work against compulsions. 80% of the time be moderate. But even moderation needs moderation. So, 20% of the time have fun and go big. Work to keep your life and all parts in it simple, organized, minimal, and with no or very little debt.

“Never go to excess but let moderation be your guide.” – Cicero

9. Seek the truth.

Read books. Cultivate a passion for all types of music, art, literature, history, travel, and religion. Continue to create. Don’t be a collectivist. Question yourself if you find that everyone around you has the same opinions and ideas as you. “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” – Socrates

10. Take risks, smartly.

Never run away from things you’re afraid of as your world will continue to get smaller. Growth happens most when there’s discomfort so dig deep to cultivate your bravery. Before doing something big and rash, ask yourself why with logic before heart as sometimes it can be for subconscious or existential reasons – realize those issues first before jumping in headfirst. And always try the food and go on that trip (if you have the money).

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” – Sren Kierkegaard

11. Learn to express love.

Work to overcome your own life’s restrictions and insecurities that are preventing you from being open to your fullest measure. Lower your walls. Be first to express the love or appreciation you have for someone. Admit when you’re wrong and apologize immediately. No silent treatments. Always communicate and forgive. Live, love, and laugh deeply, as today may be your or their last. “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” – Mother Teresa

12. Don’t be a narcissist.

Most of the time, life’s not always about you and you’re not more important or more special than anyone else. You do however have unique gifts you can contribute to the world. You’re loved. You’re valued. The world will never be a perfect utopia but that’s okay. You’ll have bad jobs and you’ll have to deal with bad people, but that’s okay too. It’s part of your journey — a journey that you should never sugarcoat. The perfect man/woman of your dreams doesn’t exist but a good, moral one does. There will never be a perfect time to have children so have them, adopt them, or be a mentor for them.

Life is an exciting business, and most exciting when it is lived for others.” – Helen Keller