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Just dropping by ... Teach your children the value of time

Yevet Tenney Published on 11 February 2013

When I was a child, time seemed to move like cooling taffy. There was plenty of time to play. There was time for long conversations on the front porch and around the dinner table. There was time to make a quilt and time to embroider. There was time to visit with a friend and take a long walk in the forest.

Today it seems that time is crunched. We rush from one task to another with the complaint on our lips, “I don’t seem to get anything done.” At the end of the day we ask, “Where did the day go?” It seems like the sun races the clouds across the sky to darkness and the moon races the stars to get to the dawn.

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Minutes click by in nanoseconds, and hours turn into days in a breathless moment. Spring turns to summer, summer to fall, fall to winter and spring comes again. We are children, teenagers, parents – and suddenly we are grandparents and great-grandparents. Whirling and twirling seasons are all gone, leaving only the memories of almost-forgotten days.

I stand on the other side of 60 years and wonder where the time went. I don’t feel any older, but I look in the mirror and ask, “Why is my mother staring at me from my mirror?” Where did the wrinkles and threads of gray come from? Then I lament, “Nobody told me time would go so fast. Nobody told me that my treasure box of memories would be so valuable.”

In the movie, An Affair to Remember, Deborah Kerr says, “Winter must be cold for those who have no warm memories.” I thank the Lord that my life has been full of wonderful warm memories of the people I have met, things I have accomplished and accolades of love I have received and shared.

I see my children growing up in a “virtual” world where the media dominates every aspect of life, and I wonder what memories they will be able to share when they stand in my shoes.

The endless stream of video games, television shows, cell phones and music has taken the place of heart-to-heart communication with other human beings. It has taken the place of creative projects and hobbies – and has given way to idol worship and unfulfilled wishes.

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Children, as well as adults, vicariously live their lives through the images they see in the media. Every advertisement stirs the “covet” bones. We must have what the media is selling.

We long to live the lifestyle of the rich and famous and wish we could have it without any effort. We bask in our fantasy world waiting for an elusive “ship to come in.” As we wait, precious time slips away.

The wasted time can never be retrieved. It is gone forever. What are parents to do to help their children learn the value of time before it is too late?

There is a hymn I learned as a child and often sing in church that sheds some light on the subject:

Improve the shining moments,
Don’t let them pass you by;
Work while the sun is radiant;
Work, for the night draws nigh.
We cannot bid the sunbeams
To lengthen out their stay;
Nor can we ask the shadow
To ever stay away.

Time flies on wings of lightning,
We cannot call it back;
It comes, then passes forward
Along its onward track;
And if we are not mindful,
The chance will fade away;
For life is quick in passing –
’Tis as a single day.

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In essence, we can’t stop the sun from making its pass across the sky and we can’t stop the night from falling, but we can control what we do with our time. We must teach our children to work.

We can’t sit in front of the computer or the television and expect to teach our children to be productive. We must work with them and give them things to do until they can think of things on their own.

My husband is a wonderful example. He built our house from the ground up. We lived in an unfinished basement until we could expand. When I say unfinished, I mean a concrete floor with a stack of bricks with sheets of tin on the top for shelter.

It wasn’t easy to live that way, but my children have learned that they don’t need a mansion to survive and, if you are willing to work, anything is possible.

My husband builds guitars and ukuleles in his spare time. He built his shop and is currently building a huge barn where we can have family reunions.

Last summer he built concrete planter boxes, and he is in the process of making a waterfall. The children always have an example of industrious living.

As winter time doth follow
The pleasant summer days,
So may our joys all vanish,
And pass far from our gaze.
Then should we not endeavor
Each day some point to gain,
That we may here be useful,
And ev’ry wrong disdain.

Teach your children to keep a journal. It will not only improve their communication skills, it will help them to be aware of the passage of time. Teach them to write down things they have accomplished during the day. Writing down accomplishments will lead them to the need to set goals.

If they set goals, it will teach them to control their accomplishments. Life slides away too quickly not to have goals and a purpose. It is a good idea for parents to do the same thing. Make journal time a family time, where everyone writes down what they have accomplished and shares those victories with the family.

If you can’t get your family into the journal mode, at least have them share their accomplishments. It will make them aware of where they are spending their time.

Improve each shining moment;
In this you are secure,
For promptness bringeth safety,
And blessings rich and pure.
Let prudence guide your actions,
Be honest in your heart,
And God will love and bless you,
And help to you impart.

Click here to go to HymnWiki to view the sheet music for this hymn.

How does promptness bring safety? The biggest enemy of today is tomorrow. We say to ourselves, “I will do that tomorrow.” Three or four tomorrows pass – and suddenly it is months and years and we look back and say, “I wish I had done that; it would have made such a difference.” We all need a double dose of procrastination prevention.

When we teach our children about time, we need to help them set priorities on how their time should be spent. Don’t forget, parents need to set the example. The first and best use of time is building relationships.

And, first and foremost, we need to build a relationship with God because He can help us to keep everything in perspective. We must take time to pray, meditate and study the scriptures. By pondering, praying and studying, we put on God’s glasses to see the world from His perspective.

He will teach us the needs of His children and we will be prepared to lend a hand. “If ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

The next priority should be building relationships with other people. People will bring the most joy and the most sorrow. In other words, they will teach us how to live. They will teach us the greatest lessons in life. Memories with people will be the most valuable.

Spend time talking with other members of the family. Get to know their likes and dislikes – not to judge, but to serve. Spend time playing together. A movie or two isn’t bad, but people can be very alone sitting side-by-side in a movie. Take time to talk about what you liked and disliked about the movie. Communicate.

The last priority should be building a relationship with ourselves. It is easy to live day-by-day without really thinking. We just react to the world around us. We fill our time with trivia without a thought of what we want to remember or what we want to be remembered for.

It takes time to really define what we want out of life. Life without goals is like a ship without a rudder if we don’t have goals and dreams to work toward.

Take time to see yourself at the end of your life. What do you want to be written on your headstone and in the paper? Then think of what you need to do to make that happen. Life is a journey and it will take you wherever you are pointed.

If you don’t have a destination in mind, you will travel in circles bumping up against life and will end with a lot of dents and scrapes with no warm memories to keep you company.

Take time to teach your children the value of time and to “improve each shining moment.” PD

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