My twin boys are now 8.
They have started to develop physically and mentally to become the men they will be, and my main job is to keep them alive during this process. My second order of duty is to help them prepare for adulthood. I also want to instruct them on the complexities of life and not only how to prepare for them, with age-appropriate instruction and modeling, but with verbal coaching.
Everybody has the virtues or character traits they would like their children to have, i.e., courage, strength, determination, honesty, hard work, etc. Those are all good traits and if my boys can learn those things, they will be ahead of the game. However, I have narrowed my list to these top 5. I believe that these will provide the foundation for the other traits as well as many challenges and/or opportunities in life.
These are not in any particular order:
- Empathy – def. the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
As the US and the world become smaller and more diverse, Empathy will become key to getting along with others around the world. On a smaller scale and closer to home, having empathy is (what I call) a magnetic trait. People are drawn to people who they feel understand or feel for them. The downside risk to empathy is that some people will be drawn to you who are not good for you. However, the upside potential is that people ultimately like to do business and be around people who appreciate them. I realize it is a balancing act. Mistakes will be made. I’ve made them. Nevertheless, I feel that if my boys can appreciate, understand, and share the feelings of another, it will set the stage for positive and successful relationships personally and professionally.
- Resiliency – def. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.
Disappointments, frustrations, losses, and failures will occur in life. Because of this, it is imperative that my boys learn how to deal with them and get over them successfully. I believe this trait will probably be the key to success in any journey or activity that the boys undertake. My modeling for them is to not get frustrated when difficulties occur. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done, but I try to show them that with resiliency and its accompanying trait of adaptability, I can figure out or overcome whatever obstacles I meet.
- Action – def. the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim.
I don’t like the term “hard work”. I think it’s overrated and misleading. Even if you work hard, you may not achieve something, but you still have to take some sort of action. There is a saying, “Even God can’t move a parked car.” Whatever you want, you will have to take some action to get, achieve, or produce the desired goal. The action may not be one task, but a series of tasks or actions -or even a whole process. But, definitely, nothing happens until you take action.
- Independence – def. not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc.
As Hamlet said, “To thine ownself be true, and thou canst then be false to any man.” I want my boys to be able to think for themselves and not be dependent on anyone to make any decisions for them. Strength, courage, and integrity come to mind as accompanying qualities, but I believe that with independence, they will learn and trust that their opinions, viewpoints, or beliefs are valid and they will not seek unnecessary validation from outside sources.
- Positive Mental Attitude
Positive mental attitude is the philosophy that having an optimistic disposition in every situation in one’s life attracts positive changes and increases achievement. Optimism and hope are vital to the development of PMA. So, there you have it. Optimism and hope, two of the biggies, but they are companions, if not byproducts, with PMA on the journey of life. Nobody likes to be around “sour-pusses.” Everybody feels better with positive people than negative people. I actively try and teach my boys to be positive in all situations and while it does not necessarily guarantee success in any endeavor, it makes the activity easier to sustain and easier to share with like-minded individuals.
These qualities are foundation qualities for all the others. There are qualities which other people may find more necessary for leading a successful and harmonious life. These just happen to be mine.
I did not add Love because even though it is the greatest quality or feeling a person can have, it is not necessarily a character or personality trait to cultivate (in my opinion). I can show the boys Love, by loving their mother or my work. (Hey..stop laughing…the second one can happen.)
Also, these traits can overlap. Resiliency can come from Action taken. PMA complements, well, all the others. Empathy and Independence, though not overlapping, are also complementary.
Some other traits did not make the list, not because they aren’t worthwhile in possessing or pursuing, but because I kept the list short at 5. If I were to add 5 more, off the top of my head they would be:: dedication, dependability, compassion, patience, honesty.
Finally, I asked my boys which 5 traits they think they should have. Here are their responses:
Happiness – like you’re on a trampoline, you can have stuff you like bouncing around with you, like a dog…
Madness – because whenever you feel mad, you can just “be mad” (crazy mad)
Extreme Toughness – being tough and standing up to bullies. If the bullies do something physical, you can defend yourself without even trying
Smilish – so that you can smile most of the time
Friendly – to have lots of friends that stand up for you and to play with…
Ok, so our answers are little different. Remember, they are only 8. I guess I have my work cut out for me.
What traits do you hope to teach your children? Tell us in the comments!