Have you ever had to deal with complaints from your child’s teacher about his unacceptable behavior in school? Or had to explain to her that your sweet little one has many good character traits and is usually not abusive?
If you have, you surely know how it feels.
If not, let me tell you — it’s NOT a walk in the park. As a matter of fact, it is heart breaking and fills you with a gut wrenching sadness that makes you wonder where you could have gone wrong on your parenting journey.
It was dispersal time. I had gone to pick my son from school. His teacher stopped me to tell me that Jay somehow had managed to get into a scuffle with his friends and ended up beating one of the boys black and blue. She gave me a firm warning about Jay’s unacceptable behavior letting him off fairly lightly just this time as this was his first episode.
I left her assured with promises to talk to him about it.
I was reeling. Seriously, did he (could he?) really do that? And why???
Well… It took me quite some time, through his sobs and anger, to sweet-talk a few sentences out of him. When I heard them though, they staggered me.
Suddenly, it was my turn to choke, with emotion.
His explanation was simple. The boys had not behaved appropriately with a classmate who happened to be a ‘girl’. This was unacceptable to my little boy who could not witness this silently as respect for girls is one virtue we hold very high in our family’s value system. I have done my best to hone this, along with other values that really matter to us, right since we started to talk to each other about this some four years back. So in that moment, when his values were being questioned, he had responded in the only way he knew how.
“Mom, how could they be so rude to her or any girl? I just lost it”, pleaded my sweet little six-year-old, looking at me with sad eyes, desperately seeking validation and beseeching me to listen to him.
I settled him down and we continued with our day.
Deep inside though, I had a lot to think about.
To tell you the honest-to-god-truth, I was actually happy and proud of my son for protesting against a wrong.
Yes, he had gone about it in a way that wasn’t quite right. I made a mental note of still having work to do on the impulse control and emotional intelligence front.
And we will. There’s time enough for that. It’s a learning journey.
But for now, I just want to celebrate this little victory – the little miracle of my 6 year old showing empathy and strength of character by standing up for what he believed in, however misplaced the act was.
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We parents do enough of the guilt trips and too little in way of celebrating our small victories. Well, this mom is taking a stand.
I will talk to his teacher and clarify what happened. I will apologize for the inappropriate way in which my son behaved and will do my best to work with her to come up with how we can guide him to handle things better next time. I will teach my son the tools he needs to stand up for what he believes in without causing trouble.
But today, I will relish that he is on his way to become everything I want him to be – a happy and successful person who will be loved by those close to him for the strength of his character.
And what are these character traits I want him to have? Here is my list –
20 Good Character Traits I Hope My Son Will Have At 20
Like all moms, I want my son to be successful in whatever he takes on. However, I visualize my son being a humble person foremost, accepting contribution of others in making him achieve whatever he is. No man is an island unto himself and I would love it if he acknowledges the role of his mentors, his role models or whoever is helping him in carving out his achievements and personality rather than him being an arrogant achiever.
Treading the thin line between contentment and lack of ambition very carefully, one of the good character traits I want my son to have is to be ambitious and strive to achieve his goals, while at the same time learning to be content and happy with whatever he does achieve.
This is a very important ingredient of happiness. How can you ever be happy without being content?
I remember a rich boy in our class whom we assumed to be the happiest as he presumably always had everything. But with greater acquaintance I found out he never seemed to have enough of anything. He was constantly demanding more from his folks and was still not happy. I remembered being surprised even as a child because we as kids were truly happy with whatever little we had.
Ambition is important to succeed but over-ambition can easily lead to unhappiness and I hope he avoids it.
Fulfilling what one undertakes is a part of a great character, even if it involves an element of sacrifice. I sure hope Jay will be looked upon as a guy who’s dependable and reliable especially by those close to him. And I am a proud mother indeed when I see him strive to do things which can put him in my best books even at this tender age.
#4 Grit, determination and diligence
I would love it if my boy turns out to be determined person, working his way hard, furiously determined to achieve his goals. Who would like a young man of 20 not having the spark or energy?
In the age of 140 character tweets and 500 TV channels, this is, in my opinion, one of the good character traits that our youngsters are severly lacking these days. Waiting for the right time for things and the ability to delay gratification is something the young really need to learn. I hope I can raise my son to be patient in his disposition and not be a restless guy.
A young man was after a gemologist to teach him the nuances of the trade. After a lot of perseverance, the gemologist agreed. Each day he put a jade stone on the palm of the young man and got down to doing his daily chores. The youngster’s patience wore out and soon he started complaining, “How will I ever learn this way?” The master gemologist, however, stayed silent. One day the young man was about to protest angrily as the gemologist again thrust the stone in his outstretched palm, “Hey, it’s not the same stone!” he said instead. The master smiled. “See, now you’re learning!”
I do hope my boy too learns to be patient as he deals with the different gems life thrusts in his palms.
Honesty and truthfulness to self and to others makes you a reliable individual. An honest individual sleeps well and has better odds of being happy deep-down compared to a swindler or cheat.
I remember when Jay lied to me the first time. He conveniently emptied his bowl of cereals that he disliked into the bin and proudly showed me the empty bowl. It took me just a moment to know he was lying. That was the day I started questioning the effectiveness of traditional discipline techniques that rely on punishment. Fear of consequences is the major cause of dishonesty in young and old alike. Once we have the courage to face the results of our action, however dire they are, honesty becomes a priority in life. That brings us on to the next important virtue in life- courage.
Learning anything new is approaching the unknown. Fear and apprehension can dampen the learning process and courage to conquer the new makes it easier to find the focus. I hope my young man at 20 is courageous enough to explore himself and the unknown.
To be human to all and to have a compassionate outlook is definitively a desirable character trait as opposed to an indifference or ruthless disposition.
Just the other day I was agonized by a picture that repeatedly kept coming back to me from various sources. It showed a terribly mutilated body shredded to pieces in a car accident. I couldn’t believe how indifferent people could actually be forwarding such images. I shuddered to simply imagine how the concerned family would feel if it actually reached them.
The hyper-sensationlization of news in the media is creating a generation of numbed, indifferent people, and I sure hope my son can rise above it and keep his compassionate streak.
Often rigidity gets in the way of progress be it academic or character growth. If I flunk a Math test once doesn’t mean I’ll never be able to be a high achiever in it or if I topped the class always doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t be able to do it better than me. I would be happy if my son becomes resilient enough to adapt in any situation as opposed to a rigid person who wouldn’t budge from his style of working.
#10 Self Discipline and Impulse control
As my son’s class room incident showed, just having a great set of values is not enough if you keep getting in trouble in how you defend them. Virtuous people need to listen, absorb, think and then act with strong impulse control and self discipline, more so than everyone else.
#11 Kindness to self and others
Great learners are kind to themselves and others. Being harsh to self and to others works detrimentally in the process of learning while kindness is excellent in promoting teamwork. If my boy learns to be a kind leader, he would be not just successful but loved by all.
#12 A sense of curiosity and wonder
Curiosity is what keeps the child in us alive and unless my little boy learns to question himself and others about the whys and how’s, he will not be able to learn the nuances of life.
Just as he demonstrated his curiosity sometime back in finding out what would happen if he cut of the projector’s wire. I caught him in the nick of time and had to explain the whole process of electric current to dissuade him from doing so.
On a much serious thought I really hope he holds onto the sense of curiosity and wonder at 20 and beyond because curiosity is indeed the mother of learning (and invention!).
#13 Optimism and positivity
Optimism in the face of difficult obstacles goes a long way in taking things to their destination. An optimist keeps a cheerful disposition and rings in positivity not just benefitting himself but those around him also.
I remember a talk with my son sometime back. I was trying to test how good he felt being a part of his existing setup, his school, his friends and his family. I asked him what he would change if given a choice-his school, his group of friends or his family. His reasoning zapped me. He wanted the same setup that day and forever. When I asked him why, he thoughtfully replied- “One of my friends doesn’t have a Mom, one of them has no friends except me and some of my friends hates our school. So I’m happy the way I am. Why should I change anything at all?”
It was hard not to tear up.
He often teaches me so much more than I teach him. Appreciation of every little nuance of effort, the situation and those around us goes a long way in the quest for happiness. I hope my son retains his sense of appreciation for whatever life has in store for him and finds joy in how he deals with it.
Now this involves recognizing and doing what needs to be done even before you are asked to do it, something that we parents would simply love to have in our kids. Just think of it how terrific it would be if they master the skill of being proactive in everything that they approach in life!
Today’s competitive world demands endurance -the inner strength to withstand stress and perform your best even under pressure. I hope my son learns to endure the competitive pressures without losing his equilibrium as he makes his mark in his little world.
Remaining calm under pressure and in tough situations is really difficult but extremely important. Figuring out how to keep calm paves the way for other good things to follow. I hope my son finds his way to be mindful and stay serene in whatever he has in his lot.
Children learn respect from how we treat them and others. They often emulate parents by reflecting back whatever we do or say. I hope I show him the respect he deserves so he in turn learns to respect himself and those around him.
#19 Leading and following
Being bossy is way different from leading. To be a good leader, my child must know his own strengths and weaknesses and that of his team. To be a good leader he must be a good follower. Most often teams end up having all leaders and no followers! So it is vitally important to know when to lead and when to follow and I sure hope by the time he is 20, he has learned the nuances of this complex fact.
I’ve deliberately kept this at the end because when hope ends, nothing remains. Hope, light at the end of a dark tunnel, is what keeps the spark alive in life. And I hope this spark shines bright in my little boy as he turns 20 (or 80).
Challenges are important in life. “Sandpaper is integral to make a piece of wood smooth”, so are obstacles and adversities in life to make it worth living.
All these character qualities are great for learning and for life. They all in varying degrees help people build more confidence, earn more money and build stronger relationships.
When my son’s teacher pulled me aside for behavioral issues, I was really worried. But hearing him out, the glimmer of hope and so much promise made me smile as I look forward to a beautiful life as his mom – teaching him and learning from him what makes life worthwhile.
And I breathe easy knowing we are on the right track.
The 2-Minute Action Plan for Fine Parents
Raising a child with great character can be quite a daunting uphill task as it can’t be done overnight. We all goof up some or the other time. But celebrating our little victories and admitting and correcting our big mistakes is the way to go. Let’s not let our efforts go unnoticed in our quest for achievements. Pamper your kid when he is good; talk it out with him when he is not. A right attitude to life can go miles in building that character. So for our contemplation questions, ask yourself this –
- What good character traits do you kids already have that make you proud of them (and yourself as their parent)?
- What additional good character traits do you hope to imbibe in your kids before they fly the nest?
- When was the last time you indulged yourself by celebrating a little victory?
- When was the last time you beat yourself up for failing?
- In general, what can you do to make sure that you celebrate little victories more, or at least as often as you beat yourself up?
The Ongoing Action Plan for Fine Parents
Children learn most by observing and emulation. Over the course of time ensure that
- You set an ideal example of traits that you look forward to in your child’s character.
- Explain your shortcomings or inabilities in cases where you feel you do not come up to the required standard without hesitation. Children must learn to appreciate that everyone’s not perfect, and so should you.
- Take a realistic approach to building character. Extreme expectations are more hazardous than beneficial in life.