Raising kids of character demands time and attention. While having a kid may come naturally, being a good dad can be quite a challenge. Here are a few tips to help your children build the kind of character best suited for their environment:
- 1. Parenting first. This is hard to do in a world with so much to do and only 24 hours a day to do it. Decide that parenting is going to be your number one priority. Consciously plan and devote time to parenting.
- Parenting Time Review. Make a quick list of the number of things you got done last week and the time you spent on getting them done. Then jot down the amount of time you approximately spent with your kids. Next, check your list to spot any activities where you could have included your kids. Plan how you can weave your children into your social life and knit yourself into their lives.
- Be a good example. Face it, kids learn firstly through modeling. In fact, you can’t avoid being an example to your kids, whether good or bad. Being a good example, then, is probably your most important job.
- Tune in to your kids’ antennas. Develop an ear and an eye for what your kids are absorbing. They are like sponges. Much of what they take in influences the development of their moral values and character. Books, songs, TV, the Internet, and films are continually delivering messages—moral and immoral—to our kids. As parents we need to control the flow of ideas and images that are influencing our kids.
- Be consistent on values. Don’t say alcohol is bad and then drink like a fish. Children cannot develop a moral compass unless people around them use the clear, sharp language of right and wrong.
- Punish with a loving heart. Kids need to learn limits. They need reasonable punishment when they ignore these limits on occasion. Kids must be made to understand what the punishment is for and know that its source is parental love and not mere retaliation in anger or irritation.
- Learn to listen to your kids. What we may dismiss as kid talk, may be mature, reasonable talk for the level at which kids talk. It is easy for us to tune out the talk of our kids. One of the greatest things we can do for them is to take them seriously when they talk. We need to set aside time to listen and learn to look at things from our kids’ perspective.
- Involve yourself in your kid’s school life. School is the main event in the lives of our kids. Their experience there is a mixed bag of triumphs and disappointments. How they deal with them will influence the character they eventually develop. Taking an active interest in our kids’ learning and school interactions can help them acquire strong character.
- Make a big deal out of the family meal. The dinner table is also a place for the teaching and passing on of our values. Manners and rules are subtly absorbed over the table. Family mealtime should communicate and sustain ideals that children will draw on throughout their lives.
- Character education cannot be reduced to words alone. We need to practice what we preach. Parents should help their kids by promoting moral action through self-discipline, good work habits, kind and considerate behavior to others, and community service. The bottom line in character development is behavior—their behavior.
As parents, we want our kids to be the architects of their own character crafting, while we accept the responsibility to be architects of the environment—physical and moral. We need to create an environment in which our kids can develop habits of honesty, generosity, and a sense of justice. The best way to learn something is for us to teach it. For most of us, the greatest opportunity we personally have to deepen our own character is through the daily blood, sweat, and tears of struggling to help our kids develop their own character.