Fathers find it difficult to make time for parenting. We have work. We need time for exercise and rest. But none of that excuses us from our responsibility to our children to teach them the virtues they need as they navigate life.
The time a father invests in his child’s moral development by teaching virtues is the greatest investment he can make in his child’s future. It’s more important than buying your child a car, investing in college, or paying for a wedding.
Virtues are the right behaviors that go along with the moral standards we value. Teaching virtues isn’t something that can be fully delegated to mom, either — fathers must play an active role. Children look to their dads as much as they look to their moms to learn the difference between right and wrong.
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Taking time to teach your child virtues is, actually, an act of love.
Preaching isn’t teaching if the actions don’t match. So spend quality time with your children and show them the virtues. Actions speak louder than words.
Here are seven virtues to start with.
1.) Initiative. At home and at work, don’t be the kind of person who waits around to be asked to do something. Look for what needs to be done and do it. I work on teaching this to my two children by helping my wife clean up the kitchen after a meal, and by having a list of tasks that need to be completed around the house.
2.) Integrity. Keep your promises. Commitment doesn’t come naturally. It takes effort. That effort is strengthened when we choose to follow through on what we say were going to do … no matter the cost. That means when I agree to do something for my children, they can rely on me to do it. I expect them to be reliable, too.
3.) Honesty. Without honesty, we have very little upon which to base our trust in relationships. Let your child see that your words are always true. While our tendency is to point out a child’s lies, work at giving more attention to when they tell the truth. Thank your children for being honest — especially when you know it was difficult for them to tell the truth.
4.) Patience. Most of us have a hard time with the in-between times. We find ourselves expecting more things to happen right now. Science demonstrates that there is actually more happiness produced by anticipating something good than by that good thing happening. Show your children how to patiently wait — and you’ll add to their ability to be happy in life.
5.) Courage. This is the ability to stand firm and go forward in the presence of fear. Encourage your children to do things they’re afraid of. Talk to your children about your fears and how you face them. Teach your children to stand by their convictions. Show them how to be true to yourself, and to God, when it is not the popular thing to do.
6.) Diligence. The world needs more people who finish the work they start. People who excel in life are those who pay attention to the small details and add polish to their work. As Jesus said, those who are a faithful in the little things will be trusted with much (Luke 6:10). Whether it’s sweeping the garage, cleaning a room, or mowing a lawn, show your children how to do a job well.
7.) Practical Usefulness. The constant stream of activity and entertainment in a child’s life allows little time to learn anything about what it takes to maintain a household. Take time to teach your children how to hammer nails and cut with a saw. Show them how to check the oil and change a tire on a car. If you manage the household budget, let them see how you pay bills and balance a checkbook. If you don’t know how to do some of these things — learn them so you can teach them.
Oh, and One More Thing
My teenage son, Matt, and I recently built his clubhouse together. I wanted to get it done in a couple of days. Matt wanted to drive every nail on his own. So I did the cutting — and he did the hammering.
It took over a week. I got impatient sometimes. I apologized.
And I learned to slow down in order to let him learn.
As you teach your children, be patient. Don’t hurry. Don’t be harsh. When you say or do things you regret, apologize. Your children will respect you for it, and they’ll learn another important virtue — humility.
Jon Beaty is a life coach and father of two in the Portland, Oregon, area.