Honesty, trust, etc. Five character traits every parent needs

By Daniel Bobinski

If you ask any parent what is necessary to create an engaged family, you’re likely to get a wide range of answers. After all, people value different things. But there are some things that everyone seems to want, and sadly, these things can be lacking — or greatly diminished — in some families.

And so, if you’re a parent, please don’t take this list lightly. I’d like to encourage you to be introspective about this, because there are always areas in which we can improve. After all, you may think you’re exercising these traits, but perhaps your children aren’t seeing it.

Without further ado, here is the list:

1. Honesty: This ought to be automatic, but because I hear some kids talk about how they know their parents lie, it’s on the list. For all family members to be committed to the family unit, they need to see honesty. They don’t want half-truths or feeble attempts at winging an answer.

I understand why some of it happens. Many parents think they must have answers for every question. (Note: They don’t.) So here is a golden nugget of wisdom for everyone: If you don’t know the answer to a question, just say so. In other words, let your yes be “yes” and your no be “no.” Also, be up front with facts. And by all means, don’t lie. You will forever lose credibility when (not if, but when) you are found out.

2. Trust: This is another “ought to be automatic” item, but the modern term of “helicopter parents” comes into play here. It used to be that kids developed confidence by being trusted to go places and do things. Today’s parents are a lot more protective. Overly so, in too many cases.

I get where some of that comes from. I read about parents getting in trouble with the law for letting their kids walk to school alone or play in a park down the street from their house, but without parental supervision. Such draconian laws are actually hurting the development of our children.

That said, we parents are responsible for developing a trusting environment in our homes, and part of developing trust in children is being trustworthy ourselves. If we say we’re going to do something, we need to do it. And if we can’t do it, a genuine heartfelt apology needs to be offered. That said, if we’re consistently apologizing for not doing what we said we would do, an atmosphere of trust will not develop.

As far as developing children to be trustworthy, guess what? Behaviorism works. Praising children for behaving in a trustworthy manner and disapproving (and in some cases, punishing) behavior that is not trustworthy sets the tone for solid character development. Starting with little things and moving on to larger projects creates a healthy path of growth in the trust arena. I’ll add that this process is necessary even into the teen years.

3. Mutual Respect: Many years ago, I had a mentor who taught me a great maxim: “Give what you want to get.” That maxim fits here quite well. In other words, if we want respect from our children, we must give it.

In addition to being polite, mutual respect involves talking with children as people, not using baby talk or barking at them as if they were slaves. Mutual respect also involves listening attentively, and seriously considering what children have to say.

If we don’t listen to children talk about what we consider to be little things, they will not want to talk with us when they need to discuss the big things. Why? Because when kids are little, the little things ARE big things.

4. Recognition: This one is simple. Children want recognition for who they are and what they do. Sadly, I see a lot of parents behaving toward their children as if they were burdens. Even worse, it’s nearly impossible to talk with these parents about it, because no matter how cautiously you broach the subject, they get defensive.

Children are individuals with original thoughts and real feelings, and they grow into adults whose early thoughts and feelings influence how they think and act in adulthood. If we recognize our children as the unique and valuable individuals they are, and convey that value to them, the likelihood of them having a healthy self-confidence in their adult years rises accordingly.

5. Support: Quite simply, without appropriate support, children often struggle. They need to know that when they are given tasks to accomplish, they’ll have moral and resource support to get their assignments done.

Again, you might think that giving children support is a universal given, but I still see parents figuratively throwing their children in the deep end of the pool and telling them to swim. I hear these parents say, “That’s how I had to learn, and if it worked for me, it’ll work for them.” What they don’t talk about is how much they themselves hated being made to fend for themselves, nor that they never bothered to learn alternative methods for helping children develop skills.

So there you have it. Five character traits I think every parent needs. This list is not exhaustive, but I believe these five ingredients are necessary for building a healthy family. If you’re a parent of children living at home, why not conduct an introspective inventory of yourself and look for ways to improve? Chances are your children will notice a difference — and you will, too.

Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed. teaches teams and individuals how to use Emotional Intelligence, plus how to create high impact training. He’s also a homeschooling dad, a best-selling author, and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. Reach Daniel through his website, www.MyWorkplaceExcellence.com, or 208-375-7606 (ofc).

Idaho Family Magazine