Raising kind, caring, contributing children is the most important— yet daunting— job for parents. Virtues make up an individual’s character and instilling virtues starts at a young age. Five local experts share their advice on virtues and parenting.
Director of Religious Education,
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Gratitude is deeper than a simple feeling of thankful appreciation. Gratitude involves a relationship, whether that is with another person or with God. Living with gratitude, we take nothing for granted. We learn to acknowledge that everything—including life itself—is a gift. In this materialistic world, it’s easy to assume that all I have is due to my own efforts. Gratitude helps us step away from selfishness and accentuate the importance of selflessness and humility.
How can parents instill gratitude? Through your daily encounters, exemplify that gratitude can exist only with reverence. Recognize the dignity of others. Give gifts freely for the benefit of another, not to show superiority. When we freely give, then one can respond freely in gratitude. Teach your children that at any given moment we can be grateful for something. At dinnertime, have each family member name something for which they were grateful that day. Before going to bed, you and your children could name the gifts and blessings you received that day and offer up a prayer of gratitude.
Coordinator of Children’s Faith Formation,
First Presbyterian Church
Courage is the ability to face challenging situations by being brave and pushing yourself, although you might fail. It can also mean standing up for others, even if you are the only one doing it. Courage pushes us to better ourselves and makes us open to new experiences.
How can parents instill courage? Challenge your child to try new activities. If you child is afraid of being in front of a crowd, encourage him or her to join the choir as a first step. Finding courage in a group setting when confronting a fear can truly help. Courage can also be built when your child tries a new playground structure that seems “scary” even though we as adults know it is safe. Have your child exclaim “My name is (insert first and last name) and I can do it!” before trying something challenging. It may give them the inner strength to go for it. Most of all, courage grows when your child knows he or she will be loved or supported, even in failure.
Youth Pastor, Findlay First Church
of the Nazarene
A great way to define purity is freedom from contamination. It reminds me of having a water purifying system. The purpose of the water filter is to eliminate any bacteria or substance that may cause illness. I want the filter because it keeps me safe and healthy. In the same way, purity keeps the heart and mind healthy and focused on goodness. Purity and innocence go hand in hand.
How can parents instill purity? Be vigilant and consistent in helping your children avoid adult content which could be explicit language, violence or sexually explicit content. The next time you are looking for a binge-worthy television show or a movie, challenge yourself and your family to find something innocent to watch. Don’t expose a child to content they cannot understand nor be able to or handle emotionally. Children and young teens should be playful, competing in sports, learning a musical instrument and being creative.
Allison Baer, Ph.D.
Professor of Reading, University of Findlay
Kindness is based in empathy and a general concern for others. It is the ability to look beyond our own needs and desires and carefully consider someone else and then to intentionally do the best for them. Kindness isn’t just thinking or feeling it’s taking action.
How can parents instill kindness? First, be kind to your children and model kindness toward others—not just people you know, but strangers. Notice acts of kindness from others and talk about them with your children. Ask your children how they can be kind to their family, friends and pets and do this with intentionality by making a plan to do acts of kindness daily.
Michael Scoles, Ed.D
Principal, Lincoln Elementary School
Honesty is speaking the truth. The key is choosing to be honest or not—it’s a choice. Whether a person chooses to be honest or dishonest reflects on their character. Honesty is one of the most important ingredients of a healthy, genuine and simple life. It’s critical to establishing trust and healthy relationships with friends, family members and co-workers. Dishonesty leads to a complex web of lies that must be remembered to be maintained, which leads to anxiety and stress.
How can parents instill honesty? Teach your children the virtue of honesty through modeling. When you can demonstrate honesty in your own behavioral choices, discuss these moments with your child. These positive examples can become points of reference for your child as they grow. In addition, when your child demonstrates honesty, positive reinforcement can create intrinsic motivation for “doing the right thing.” And when your child makes a mistake, as all of us will do, make it a teachable moment, rather than focusing on the consequences.
Books that teach virtues
Reading and discussing books with your child is an excellent way to instill virtues, according to Dr. Baer. “Children learn from book characters and try to emulate their behavior.” Here are Dr. Baer’s recommendations:
- Love by Matt De La Pena
- Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffries
- My Friend Maggie by Hannah Harrison
- Giraffe Problems by Jory Johns
- Sadako by Eleanor Coerr and Ed Young
- When You Are Brave by Pat Zietlow Miller
- Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cooke
- Flower Girl Butterflies by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard
- Beautiful Moon: A Child’s Prayer by Tonya Bolden
- Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel
- Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de La Pena
- The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
- King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan
- Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty
- Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth
- Sunday Shopping by Sally Derby