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Teaching kids values

By Stephanie Kim. Photos by Win Grant and Susan Brown.

I have struggled with what values I’m teaching my daughters. Of course I want them to do well, to be successful, to reach their full potential.

But am I emphasizing things that make them think that perfect grades and being the best are what’s most important? That they must have a respectable career or make a lot of money to be successful?

calloutWhile I was born and raised in the U.S., my immigrant parents have heavily influenced me with the Korean culture. Some say Koreans have such a fierce warrior spirit and tenacious drive to achieve because of the history of Koreans continually fighting invaders. In my family, we were always expected to be the best, the brightest, to achieve first place because second place wasn’t acceptable. The American culture also encourages being number one, working your way up the corporate ladder, being all that you can be. Seeking perfection is part of both my cultures.

Kim/Wass extended family

Stephanie with her parents and daughters.
Photo by Win Grant.

I began questioning this when I realized my idea of success would have to change. The day I received a letter from my daughter Maria’s school informing me she was accepted into the Gifted and Talented Program was the same day my younger daughter, Julia, was officially labeled as intellectually disabled. It was no longer about being the smartest, having straight A’s, and achieving a professional career. It made me start thinking about how I could help both of them be successful.

But what is success?

I thought about Maria’s lessons from years of tae kwon do where she has memorized its tenets – indomitable spirit, perseverance, courtesy, integrity, and self-control. And while she’s working her way up the different color belts towards the ultimate goal of being a black belt, she is learning many technical skills along the way. What if she learns all the forms well, knows all of the sparring techniques, memorizes all the terminology, and can do all of the self-defense techniques to earn a black belt, but doesn’t follow the tenets of tae kwon do? Does that make her successful?

Kim/Wass family

Photo by Susan Brown.

What if she makes straight A’s, goes to a good college, lands a great job earning lots of money? Does that mean she is successful?

Jesus teaches in Mark 9:35 “Anyone who wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else” (NLT). This has always been hard for me to digest being in direct conflict with the culture I grew up in. I also read in 1 Corinthians 13:2, “…if I knew  all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, … And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody” (NLT).

I’m beginning to think that there are more important values to teach my kids than the drive to achieve. Not that I don’t want my kids to use the talents God has given them to their fullest, but I’m also trying not to push them so hard toward achievement that they think that is the measure of success.

There are many “successful” people in this world – in respectable careers or with tremendous wealth or fame. But many have achieved these at the cost of relationships with family and friends. They’re still searching for happiness and peace, and wondering what is missing from their lives.

I want to teach my children to love God so wholeheartedly that they will put their complete faith and trust in Him, and then share with others the sacrificial love they have received from Christ. I can’t guarantee an easy life, a good job, wealth, or fame, but I know with that kind of love and faith they can endure any hardship, persevere through the most difficult challenges, and live a life filled with overflowing love, genuine peace, and abundant joy. That’s what I call success.

Editor’s note: Previously published in the Richmond Times Dispatch, June 9, 2012.


Stephanie KimStephanie Kim is Director of Finance for the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission. She is an active member of Richmond’s First Baptist Church and often participates in worship services as flutist. She resides in Mechanicsville. She can be reached at flute2tr@comcast.net.

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