Creative Ideas to Prepare a Kid for Life

I have enjoyed hiring interns for almost thirty years now. Usually they are college students or recent graduates. I love investing in them, and offering experiences that will enable them to get a head start on their career.


Jim Woodard just joined our Growing Leaders team as an intern. I noticed right away how ready he was to serve, to initiate and to assume responsibility. Over dinner, I asked him what his parents did to prepare him for adult life and leadership. It was not an accident. Some might consider his mother’s tactics harsh, but Jim doesn’t. He remembers being loved deeply by his mom, enough that she prepared him for life after college. Enjoy our conversation below:

1. How were your parents intentional about helping become responsible?

Each day Mom told us two things: she loved us and that we were to serve the people we encountered that day. Mom taught us responsibility by giving her five kids daily assignments and told us we could not play outside until we completed them. There were days we procrastinated and didn’t get to go outside and other days we enjoyed a long playtime. Another responsibility we learned was how to teach others. I’m the second oldest, so I helped the younger three with some of their school as they were growing up. While they were learning math and reading, I was learning about patience and helping others achieve their goals.

2.  What were some creative ideas your mother used to enable you to understand life and leadership better?

My siblings and I have many humorous memories about the creative methods mom used over the years. While I laugh, there’s no arguing her outcome was reached. Here are four of my favorite stories about my mom’s teaching moments.

  • The first one is a hard lesson we learned about obedience. My older brother and I were playing outside when mom called us to come inside. We pretended like we didn’t hear her, not knowing she’d baked fresh cookies. When we did go inside, we admitted we’d ignored her. For our discipline, we were not allowed to have any cookies and had to go back outside and serve our friends the cookies. Needless to say, we never did that again.
  • As a kid, it was like the end of the world when mom was on the phone and I had a question. I didn’t have the patience to wait on her to finish her conversation. Whenever we interrupted mom while she was on the phone, we had to call the person back and apologize. I never decided if it was more embarrassing to call and apologize to the plumber or a family friend. It seemed like simple embarrassment then, but I now know she was teaching us to take responsibility for our actions.
  • We were taught that whatever was set in front of us at dinner, we had to eat. There was no PBJ, Mac and cheese, or chicken nuggets we could default to if we didn’t like the meal. The lesson was that sometimes in life, you don’t have choices and must be content with what you have.
  • One other rule my mom had was that we were not allowed to leave the house if we did not demonstrate good behavior inside the house. This was a daily reminder that we must set an example. If we had poor manners at the dinner table, back-talked our parents, or didn’t get along with the siblings, we had to call and tell the person we’d planned to meet why we would not show up for the event.

3.  What have been your greatest “take aways” from growing up in that home?

Every day, we are always preparing for our next step in life. I find I’m still applying lessons in manners, obedience, and behavior wherever I go. The situations have changed and become more important to follow, but they are the same principles that I was taught ever since I was born.

Thanks Jim. I love intentional parents—because it’s young leaders like you who are the product.

What creative ideas have you used (or seen) to prepare kids for life? Leave a comment below.

Creative Ideas to Prepare a Kid for Life