Every responsible human being has acquired certain virtues useful in getting along with others. Topping the list are kindness, being responsible, friendliness, charity, honesty, trustworthiness, compassion and respect for others. All are reasonable and desirable tools for successful living. Thinking that the acquisition of these traits can be left to chance would be a big mistake.

The positive virtues mentioned above are not inherent; they must be nurtured, modelled and expected. How does a parent do this? I heard the following statement once: "Responsible parents are their children's teachers. The parents lead and the children, as students, follow. Fun times are welcome; have fun along the way, but never at the expense of needed leadership". This is quite a serious statement, but its message is bang on. I like to rephrase this message to sound more like this: "Responsible parents who care deeply about their children and society, love to have fun, act silly, participate in enjoyable family activities together and have an undeniable set of virtues that they not only state are important, but also model and allow their children to practise."

If parents want to raise respectful, compassionate, friendly, charitable, trustworthy, and kind children then they must consistently, in as many ways possible, state the values or virtues they feel are important to them, model these virtues and provide opportunities for their children to practise using them.

For example, when a parent says, "We cooperate and do our part because we are a team", they are stating a virtue. When a parents says, "We always go to the door to say hello when guests arrive", they are also stating a virtue.

When a parent offers to help someone they are modelling a virtue. When a parent gets frustrated but utters, "Ärgh, there must be a way!" and then continues to work on the task until the desired outcome is achieved, they are also modelling a virtue.

When parents take their children to help pack food baskets at a homeless shelter they are allowing their children to practise the virtues they talk about and model. When parents tell their children that they will be the ones to answer the door to welcome the guests this evening they are also giving their children an opportunity to practise the virtues that they have spoken of and modelled.

Ask yourself and take time to reflect on the following questions:

1) What virtues do my partner and I value and expect in our family?

2) How do we model these virtues to our children?

3) How do we help our children practise these virtues?

4) If asked, would our children be able to state at least 3 virtues that we value?

Following this reflection, your answers will be your guide as to the next step to take.

Author's Bio: 

Erin Kurt, parenting & life coach to working mothers, and founder of ErinParenting, is also the author of Juggling Family Life and creator of The Life Balance Formula and the How to Get Your Child to Listen program.