3 Character Qualities that Set Your Kids up for Success
Character Qualities to help your kids succeed in all areas of life.
Like most well-intentioned parents, Dave and I have high hopes for our boys. We want our sons to grow up to be good men, productive, stable, and successful. So we teach them to work hard, excel in what they do, and to never give up. In school we want straight A’s, and in sports, well, spend any time with us and your likely to hear a few rounds of “Go big or go home!”
(My husband and I have some competitive blood pulsing through our veins, I can’t deny it.)
And that stuff is important, right? I mean, it’s a hard world we live in, and there is a lot of competition. Kids need to be focused, disciplined…As parents, it is our job to raise up kids who can survive. And hopefully thrive.
So we cheer for our boys, and make sure they get a good education, and we focus on all of that stuff that will make them succeed in this world.
But at the end of the day, as I lie quietly, I know that there is so much more.
When I slow down enough to hear from God, I know that worldly success is not the end goal.
For all of the educating and striving, the pushing and the winning, there is still something more valuable.
It’s a big little word called CHARACTER.
Because there is a big difference between raising up kids to be capable and successful adults….
and raising up kids to be exceptional human beings.
I don’t know about you–But I’m aiming for exceptional human beings.
The kind with character qualities that run much deeper than winning or losing. The kind with a heart for people, and convictions that overrule convenience. I want my boys to grow to be men who know who they are, and don’t compromise that for anything. Character qualities are often quiet, but there is undeniable strength in people of character.
And I think this world could use a lot more people of character.
From the beginning, my husband and I have hoped to raise boys with exceptional character, but I’m the first to admit that it’s easier said than done. When push comes to shove, we easily find ourselves focused on external behaviors, good grades and high achievement. We lose our focus, and we get caught up in the same rat race as everyone else. We lose perspective and we often have to…Re-align.
And we do. We realign often. One of us will see something, or be reminded through our devotions, or a speaker, or just on a quiet drive. We might be concerned about something we see in one of our boys, or we realize we haven’t talked enough about this topic or that. It’s a constant process guys. But it’s a good one.
The list of character qualities that we are working on with our boys is long. Today I thought I would just share three of the character qualities that we’re currently working on. Maybe I’ll follow with more in a future post.
1. A Secure Identity
Kids need to know who they are, and how they fit into this world. As they grow up, kids will be searching for their identity, whether they know it or not. If they do not have a positive sense of who they are, kids will try to find labels that make them feel like they are fitting in. This kid of searching can lead to a variety of designations, most of which we would never choose if we saw it coming.
From the time our boys were young, we have taught them that their true identity is found in the God who made them. God created them with a purpose, and He loves them unconditionally. We talk about this a lot–almost daily, because we really believe it, and we know that the world will give them so many other messages, that they need to know this truth from the core of their being.
Other things will define your children–the activities they do, the subjects they are good at, the friends that they spend time with. But basing their identity on anything that shifts or changes is dangerous; Not making the sports team, or having a friend let you down can destroy the very foundation that an identity is being built on. Failing a test, or gaining some weight can make a kid feel completely lost if they have built their sense of self on anything unstable.
Helping our kids develop their sense of identity is one of the most important things we can do as parents. If they know that they are loved, worthy, and significant based on who they are, not what they do, our kids will have a very solid foundation to build on. They will then be freed up to discover their gifts and talents, and then use them to be a blessing to the world around them.
**Dave and I both found this book super helpful before we had kids, and try to communicate the principle in it to our boys as they grow up: The Search For Significance: Seeing Your True Worth Through God’s Eyes
2. Delayed Gratification
My husband has talked a lot about this theme of delayed gratification. When I look at his life, I’m pretty sure that this character quality has been one of the biggest keys to his success, and has kept him from a multitude of troubles. I love that he is instilling this quality into our boys.
We live in a world of instant gratification, where everything we want comes quick and easy. So instilling an appreciation for waiting…is tough.
But I believe that if we can teach our kids delayed gratification from a very young age, we are helping them tremendously for the rest of their lives. Saying “no” to some things, and saying “wait” for others, is going to benefit our kids hugely. This can be practiced when they are young, and it can be talked about throughout their years. You can model it by your own lifestyle habits (saving for things, being disciplined in health habits, etc.) When they catch on to the benefits of this quality, kids will begin to appreciate the value of delayed gratification.
Learning delayed gratification will protect our kids in areas of peer pressure, and sexual temptation. It will give them greater success in school, work, and sports. It will most definitely help them deal with relationships and finances as they grow up. As always, talking about the concept of delayed gratification is a great place to start!
In this crazy-competitive world we live in, compassion is not always celebrated. But oh how our world needs more compassionate people! If we can take our eyes off our own stuff for just a minute, and see the hurting people in this world, we gain not only greater perspective, but we can also find greater purpose to our lives.
I began learning compassion from my own father, who every day before work would say to me, “If you get a chance today–help someone.” Then after work my dad would often check in with me asking “So…who did you get to help today?” I know that Dad’s daily focus (and his own example) made a huge impression on me in this way.
This is an area we are focusing on in our family right now. It isn’t easy when life is so busy, but we really want to instill a heart of compassion in our kids. A few ways we do this: We support children through World Vision, and a few times a year my boys make hand-made cards and put together packages for the kids we support. We also serve at our local food distribution monthly, and look for other opportunities to serve as they arise. (especially at the holidays.) But there is so much more I’d like for us to do, and I humbly acknowledge that we could do so much more.
I think that talking with kids, and reading books about other cultures and needs in this world is a great first step. From a young age my boys have read stories of missionaries and other world changers who invested their life in serving others. What I love about these stories is that the ones pouring out their lives on behalf of others are always the most happy, fulfilled people. My boys see that and learn young that we are truly happiest when we are serving others.
Two books I have been reading that I highly recommend:
Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World: How One Family Learned That Saying No Can Lead to Life’s Biggest Yes.
Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time
(Amazon Affiliate links)
Like I said, these are just three of a longer list of character qualities that will make the difference in raising good, or capable kids, and raising truly exceptional kids. Kids that light up a room, bless the people around them, and change the world. This is literally my favorite topic, so I hope we can cover more character qualities in the days ahead.
I really hope you’ll join this conversation by leaving a comment below!
And as always, I would be honored if you would share this post with your friends using the social media buttons below.
**Note: If you love the idea of raising tweens of teens of character, I think you’d enjoy being a part of my brand new Character Training Course!! You can read more about it and leave your name/email to be notified when the fall course launches on THIS PAGE!!
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My book, BOY MOM, was released in August of 2019 (Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers) and is full of practical advice and helpful resources for raising boys. It’s a great study for small groups!
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Excellent post Monica! I wanted to share something that my 16 yo son did recently. He is a boy scout headed to a high adventure excursion, and overheard a couple of other boys make a derogatory comment about a girl they say at the pool. My son said “a scout is kind and courteous” and that what they said is not in keeping with the BSA’s code of conduct. He then overhead one of our adult leaders say something like “it’s ok, she didn’t hear”. That really upset my son and he texted his dad, my husband, to tell him what happened, because it’s inexcusable behavior by the boys and the leader, whether or not they were heard by the girl. I am so proud of my son – what a sign of his strength of character, and he is on his way towards being a mature and responsible young man who knows how to respect others and especially women.
Thank you for the comment, Dana! So good. Solid parenting right there! 🙂 Hugs and high five to that character-rich son! aloha-
Can’t agree with you more!! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. We have also been trying hard to instill these values to our boys. But it is really easier said than done. Just wondering if you have any practical examples that you find helpful. Thanks!
I loved this reading this! It is so close to my heart, every single word you said. Thank you for sharing your beliefs. You have no clue how encouraging it is to hear, with so much going on. I love your writing. ALL OF IT. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
Second mommy, you the best!
Oh you sweet thing! Thank you Kendra! I think you’re the best and of course if I had a daughter I’d want her to be everything you are so I am honored to be in your life! Hope to see you soon! xo
Oh Monica, this is so so so so good and I COULDNT AGREE MORE. Definitely all things we implement in raising our 3 girlies- GREAT post, thanks for writing and sharing!
Thank you Jessica! And I just love to hear from a girl mom here! So happy you took time to comment. Much Aloha!
LOVE the new header! Levi looks like a rascal! I say that in the most loving way of a mom of a 7 year old rascal. His eyes seem to be looking for the “what’s next” in his constant pursuit of fun.
Have you ever had to address tone with your children? Struggling with this one… My oldest has a certain tone ( used a ton!!!) that I feel conveys very negative messages and he just doesn’t hear it. Suggestions?
Hey Shannon–Haha, yes you nailed Levi, 24/7. 😉
Oh boy…tone…Yep. Of course each situation (and kid)(and parent) is different, but as for us…If I sense a disrespectful tone, I call it. If a kid disagrees, I do not back down. What matters is what is conveyed to other people (in all areas of life really) so I am very firm on this one. I will say something along the lines of “I’d like you to take minute to regroup/ponder what is going on etc…and then try saying the same thing with a respectful tone.” If I do not back down, they pretty much are forced to change the way they are speaking. It takes some effort on our part as parents, (and consistency) but I am a stickler on this one. And deep down, the kids know it when they are using a disrespectful tone, so they can try to deny it but we all know that they know…haha. Hang in there and keep the bar high–He’ll rise up to it! 😉
Thanks, Monica, for your response- I know how busy you must be! Your feedback is very encouraging, because you described our method to a T. My 9 year old claims he doesn’t hear the tone and my husband thinks sometimes I hear my kiddo’s “upset/frustrated tone” for one of disrespect. We will fight on- this is too important to back down. My otherwise AMAZING kid struggles with this tone only at home, which I know is better than using this tone out and about. But, I’d love to be through this phase. Let’s hope it isn’t just the beginning of tween attitude…
Thank you Shannon…And I imagine I am about the same busy as you, my friend! 🙂 And let’s not even go there with thinking it could be the beginning of the tween attitude…rather consider that you are standing ready at the crossroads where it could have gone that direction, but instead you are redirecting your AMAZING kid to manage all of life’s frustrations with self control and an attitude of respect. I honestly think this is the point where a lot of parents buy into “well this is just how tweens/teens act” and it all goes down hill from there. But not you…you know better! 😉 You’ve got this!! Can’t wait to hear from you down the road on this! Much aloha-
I truly enjoyed this post. Raising men of character is no easy feat! My husband and I try to remind ourselves daily of these qualities in raising our boys. One more quality to having good character is “being a man of your word”. I find it so important and appreciated in life, and not always seen. It is a characteristic that my husband is known for and I am reminded often by others. I am proud of that quality in him and hope our boys learn by his example.
Nailed it. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experiences. Having four children I often feel the struggle of raising them to be strong, compassionate and happy people. Your blog speaks to me personally on so many levels. Thank you!
You put my heart for my family into words. Yes, please do share more thoughts on these areas of parenting.
thank you so much Lacey! I hope you’ll stick around and also look around in older posts as I have many others from the past related…:) Aloha!
Great blog Monica. As a mom of 2 boys I share the same prayers. Watching my 13 year old struggling to figure out who he is certainly gives me pause. Perfect reminders for me on how to help and how to pray. This world is tough for our boys.
Oh I love it! These are the things I hope for my kids as well! My husband is a professional basketball player and I was raised playing sports as well, so we can relate to the competitive nature of things! But you’re so right, it’s so much more than that. Thankfully, I had wonderful parents and a great dad who made sure to help us realize the things you’re saying here. Our security is in God and the way he made us is perfect. I hope and pray we are relaying these things to our boys and my biggest prayer is that the Lord covers our mistakes and uses them to grow exceptional human beings. Another GREAT post, I just discovered your blog and love it!
Can you share the titles of the other books you have your boys read under ‘Compassion’? I’d love some ideas for my readers! Also if you do more values in the future, I’d have to add ‘resourceful’ or making due with what you have. That’s a huge one in our family as I always seem to be fighting selfishness and greed with my kids.
Love this post! The character developing within each of my two boys has been very much on my mind of late. With thanks from us here in Cape Town!
I love your blog and always look forward to your words of wisdom, so please keep them coming!
Thank you Jen! What nice words! 🙂 Aloha
You are an inspiration. I have 2 boys. My oldest is 4 and youngest less than a year. good character & a sense of self is definetly something i want for my boys & something my husband & i have struggled to help our oldest with. You have reminded me to take a step back from the everyday struggles & to make sure that we are connecting on a regular basis as afamily about important topics
Thank you Chelsea! Keep it up…If you’re already working on it now, you’re in a very good place! Much aloha-
Raising a grandson with lots of self confidence issues. This was inspiring. Thank you.
Beautiful post, Monica! I remember how we all kind of giggled when your dad said his famous “help somebody” quote as he left for work. Looks like it stuck with you, and obviously, you’re helping alot of others by sharing. He’ll be touched to know that. When you help someone else, you help yourself even more. Proud of you.
i really am blessed with this write up. this has been a major concern for me with raising my kids. i have 2 boys ( ages 7 ) a girl ( age 3) and i really want them to grow up with little or no character flaws. am glad i read this article and i believe God will give me the strength and wisdom to put this that i have read and more into practice and trust the will grow to be individuals with good character in the society and God”s Kingdom.
thank you very much
Would love to hear more about this!! Great topic!
Hi Monica…Thanks so much for sharing your heart and life with us! I have two boys: Kent aged 8 and Luke aged 1. Stumbled upon your site a couple of months ago and it’s invaluable! Im very encouraged by the concept of “Re-aligning” . I’m only just coming to fully appreciate the verse “His mercies are new every morning” since as a mom am always beating myself up for what I could’ve or should’ve done more (or less) 🙂 God bless u and your family!
Thanks Monica, I really enjoy reading your articles, you add such relevant insight into motherhood and raising your children.
I completely agree that kids need to know that their sport, is only WHAT they do, not WHO they are…it’s a discussion I have with my teen girls who are competitive skiers.
After a bad race, or poor result they will be bummed, but I always remind them that skiing is just what they happen to do, it’s not a reflection of who they are, and then I try to list all the great character qualities they have, so they don’t get bogged down in just the results.
It’s often a hard lesson to swallow. My youngest daughter didn’t make the Junior Olympic team last winter and was heart broken. But she did understand skiing is just something she does.
Thanks for that reminder again.
thank you Penny! I just did an instagram about a similar situation with Luke after is surf contest results were not what he had hoped. It’s all easier said than done, but so worth the conversation!! Much love–
I hope you don’t get tired of me saying that every parenting post you write is AWESOME. 😉 Seriously though, this one has been my favorite yet and I can’t wait to read more about the other character qualities. Thank you for sharing, always! xo
Aww…that means so much!! Thank you. 🙂 *hugs*
We love the book “Raising A Modern Day Knight” and pattern many of our character goal to teach our son from this book. So he will hear words like chivalrous, noble, integrity, and honor often and understand what they mean.
awesome! I haven’t read that, but will definitely look into it! 🙂 Thank you!
Yes! Please post more on this topic. We are raising 4 boys and 1 girl and your written reminders on raising them are heavenly. Just today, we had an incident at school regarding bullying and now I will ask them what your father asked you everyday in hopes to instill compassion in them that will spread to those around them. Thank you!
Bravo!!! Beautifully said. 🙂 xoxo
My husband and I were ” re-alingning” one day and I decided to search for articles to help us think. We were worried our two boys were using their time wisely. I bumped into your blog. Thank you, this is helping. We live in Nicaragua and same issues here 😉
This is so helpful and such a perfect reminder. Thank you! I needed it. My son is a freshman in high school and “the new kid”. He used to think being the new kid was cool; like everyone wanted to be friends with him/her, but in reality he feels totally alone and like no one wants to be his friend. It has been heartbreaking for me, but also humbling. At his previous school he had tons of friends and was well liked by all. I feel he is being tested now. The advice his dad and I gave him was to smile and be friendly to those who aren’t. He says it’s not working. Instead I’ll tell him to help someone out. I know how much it warms my heart to help others! Thanks again…you’re an angel.
Thank you so much for your posts!!!
I’m so happy to have a place to read that there are parents out there that value the same things I do!!!
Keep it all coming your inspirational 🙂
Thanks for your post! This has been a turbulent year with my 13 year old son and I have had to re-evaluate my parenting relationship with him. We are in a better place now, but I still need to keep re-aligning and I found this topic of the important character qualities very insightful. Will she sharing this with my husband, family and friends!
I just found your blog & wish I found it earlier! My boys are 17,14.&12. I employ some of what you blog about already but no where near as often or as deep as I should. We have always wanted the best for our kids, sheltered them, and I can see how waiting until they ‘older’ has not served them… My oldest has been in drug rehab for 3 months already. I’m trying to do things differently with the other two, starting earlier!. I know to my core his drug addiction is not my fault, we have a wonderful family home, but everything I say to him now, I am saying to my younger boys so they feel good about themselves without the need for outside pressures & influences. Thank you for your words!
Thank you, Monica, for your post today! We are headed to my younger son’s soccer game today and I was just praying that there was something I could say to encourage him. You see, his competitive streak has just begun to emerge (probably from his HIGHLY competitive older brother who also plays soccer.) During practice last week he literally fell apart (he is 7) when a goal got past him and he got this look on his face like he was going to seek and destroy for the rest of the game. Aggressiveness beginning eeek out of him, would be putting it lightly. I thought, “and so it begins….”
We are also a competitive family that teaches a “never give up” and “always try your very very best” mentality. We constantly have to refocus as well.
I can NOT wait to leave for the game and tell him the words of your father, “if you get the chance during the game, why don’t you try to help someone.” YAY!! He has a few underdogs on his team that would really benefit from his support!! This is going to be great!!
Monica thank you so much for this! We have been struggling with my older guy this school year with behavior. I love love love what you said about constantly realigning. It’s not a one time thing. It’s a constant reevaluation. I needed this encouragement this morning. Thank you!
This is great–would love to hear more. Raising our son literally across the street from an Ivy League University is amazing most of the time, but, there is also pressure to “succeed” in the air, depending on your definition of success. Your post is hopeful and inspirational.
Thank you so very much for this post! And yes, PLEASE, I would love to hear more from you on this topic.
I have read your blog over the last 3 years, and while I have often been fond of what/how you write, this by far is my favorite one! I have a one year old daughter and this nails everything that I desperately want to teach her. Thank you Monica for continuing to pour out your heart over the internet 🙂
Sarah–That means so much to me. Thank you. Your daughter is a lucky girl–you’re starting young and you will be so glad! 😉 Much love-