1. Be united with your spouse.
Unity between spouses makes parenting more likely to succeed.
There is nothing better in this world than that man and wife should be of one mind in a house.
(Homer - The Odyssey)
The best thing a husband can do for his children is to love their mother.
(Ray Guarendi - Back to the Family)
- Parental consistency. Work together. Talk often. Agree on approaches.
- Put your spouse on a pedestal in your children’s eyes; back up each other’s decisions.
- Don’t argue in front of kids; make up in their presence if you argue in their presence. Be the first to apologise.
- Be honest to yourself about your own temperament and faults. Kids see through hypocrisy. Admire the strengths of your spouse; don’t get fixated on faults.
- Remember: domestic discord leads to depression in children.
2. Be honest about the underlying values in one’s life
Your son must see that your values make you happy.
(Prof. David Isaacs Character Building)
Why should children be happy with their lot when parents complain about theirs?
(Barbara Holborow, Former Childrens’ Court Magistrate)
- Look honestly at your motivations.
- Beware of putting your work before family.
- Beware of leaving the heavy lifting in the family to your spouse.
- Take the initiative to create good family times weekly.
3. Teach right and wrong
My mother, I am no longer a child, I know the difference between right and wrong.
Children need to fail.… When we impulsively protect our children from failure, we deprive them of learning….
(Martin Seligman The Optimistic Child)
- One consequence is worth a thousand words. (Ray Guarendi Back to the family)
- Foresee the big issues and give clear reasons on the range of challenges your child will face: faith, drugs, attitudes to sexuality and relationships, business ethics, modesty, etc.
- Have ongoing Give ongoing guidance about human love and relationships.
- Speak clearly but affectionately about things that are not right, or not good enough.
- Don’t just do things with your son or daughter: create times you talk easily.
4. Give best example in everything
It’s amazing how high some parents put the crossbar for their kids and how low they put it for themselves.
(Jack Gibson. Rugby League Coach)
Children of drunkards cannot walk straight in mind or in body.
- Model optimism and a life of faith in front of every difficulty, large or small.
- Model problem solving and critical thinking.
- How humble are you? It is important we don’t make ourselves the centre of our existence. If you pray let your child see your daily habits of prayer. If you are Catholic let them see you draw your strength from the sacraments. Dad’s leadership in these areas helps a great deal.
- Be a person who likes being with people. Have families and friends over every week.
- Model self control. Model calm tenacity in the face of difficulties.
5. Affection. Give unconditional love and encouragement.
“Every piece of research on effective childhood socialisation identifies two broad parameters, emotional support (affection) and limit setting….”
(Prof. Don Edgar RMIT Centre for Workplace Culture Change)
- The reality is that dads often need to work harder to connect with their kids.
- Give focussed attention.
- Do things together, preferably things you both enjoy.
6. Don’t indulge your kids
All the surveys show that beyond a certain level of income, happiness doesn’t increase.
(John Menadue Things you learn on the way)
- Show that better holidays are not necessarily more expensive holidays.
- Remember: affection is shown less in material gifts and more in time and interest.
- Teach that relationships are the bedrock of happiness in life.
- Teach that people are more important than things.
7. Have high but specific expectations.
First Corollary to the Law of Domestic Expectations: Mum shouldn’t do anything anyone else can do, and if no one else can do it, then teach ‘em how.
(One Sydney mum)
I give them lots of love and tell them that we don’t tolerate that behaviour here.
(Louisiana reform school headmistress)
- Remember: expectations determine performance.
- Teach jobs by doing them together. Foster positive attitudes to work.
- What your son or daughter can do is more now than six months ago.
8. Manage the inputs
Remove indecent pictures and speech from the stage and from the sight and hearing of the young.
- Children will imitate any one who spends time with them and takes an interest in them.
- Foster a positive peer group for your son or daughter.
- Come to agreed guidelines about use of technology: chat-rooms, television, mobile phones and internet. Protect but also foster virtue-based self-management: both are necessary.
9. Talk about ideals and causes and live those ideals and causes
Your son must experience the joy that comes from serving others.
(Prof. David Isaacs Character Building)
- Talk about the big ethical issues. Your children must see you active in standing up for what you believe. Convictions must lead to action.
- Be quick to help others in material or spiritual need and bring your child with you when you do.
- Pray daily with your children for those in need.
10. Focus on building virtues
Happiness is the reward of virtue.
Good character consists of knowing the good, desiring the good, and doing the good… habits of mind, habits of heart, and habits of action.
(Prof. Thomas Lickona Educating for Character)
- Remember: virtues are essentially good habits, not just good intentions.
- Lay the foundations for virtues with consistency, routines, clear expectations and timetables.
- Start early. Train small children to stop when asked, to treat others well, to calmly face issues.
- Obedience is vital: children who can obey their parents will obey their own reason when they are older. Too many teenagers don’t have the will power to tell themselves what to do.
- A child who doesn’t seem to have much will power needs more specific goals and a parent’s close follow up and encouragement.
- Insist that in every action, we must consider how it affects others.
- Give emotional example. Manage your own fears: don’t get stressed, angry or impatient. Change yourself not others. Try to live with trust in Providence when things are difficult.
- Manage your own desires for comfort. Put others first even when you are tired.
- Teach goal setting and prioritising.
- Keep focused on the goal: to raise young people to love wisely, to think for themselves, and to act freely, unhampered by bad habits and negative peers.