Being a parent can be so hard! There is so much to juggle between education and activities, let alone the idea that we are trying to raise them to be upstanding adults some day. Just thinking about it can feel like climbing a mountain! It can be hard to think about instilling character in your kids.

When one of my clients is overwhelmed trying to navigate the best ways to raise a child, I advise them to shrink their expectations and focus on the parenting basics that really matter long term. We often get caught up in the comparison game of what others say our kids need to be learning, but lose site of the deeper character lessons that will take them far in life.

Character lessons will have a long term impact on your kids and their relationships. It changes the way your child thinks and relates to others- peers and adults. These character lessons will help them be successful in jobs and relationships.

Here are some parenting basics that will help you with instilling character in your child:

Respect others

It is hard to go far in life when you don’t respect others. Don’t just demand that your child respects you; help them understand why respect is important.  Teach them that all people have value since we are all image bearers of God. Show them that good things happen in our relationships and friendships when we respect others, and that it’s good to treat others how we want to be treated.

Be consistent and follow through

This character lesson helps your child build trust with others. When he is consistent and does what he says he’s going to do, people can rely on him and trust him. When he is flaky and over commits, he can lose his integrity in the eyes of others.

Push through

Let’s be honest, your child won’t be a better adult because he got 100% on every spelling test. But he will be a better adult if he learns how to persevere when something is hard. Helping your child see the benefit of endurance will help him not lose hope when life throws him a hardball.


This life lesson is a must. People will let us down. We will feel disappointed. But that doesn’t mean we have to walk around grumpy and full of resentment. Forgiveness is an important lesson for your child to understand in order to have healthy relationships. We forgive because we’ve been forgiven.

It’s not all about you

It’s hard to teach our kids this lesson as they are growing up in a heavily egocentric world. But we still need to instill the concepts of sacrifice and empathy into our kids. They need to know that we don’t always get what we want, and we can be okay when that happens. Giving to others is an important lesson to have figured out to be well balanced in adulthood.

Do your best

Notice I said best- not ‘be perfect’. Our kids are under so much pressure. They have enough of their own internal dialogue to measure up. They don’t need to hear this message at home too. Be very careful of criticism and how you address mistakes. You want to encourage your kids to do their best, not feel like failures and give up. Affirm your kids when they have tried hard at something. They need to know you believe in them and to hear you cheer them on. When kids learn this life lesson, they develop strength to bounce back after personal mistakes.

When you raise your kids with the mindset that they are only yours for a short time, it helps you focus on teaching them what will prepare them for real life outside of your home.

Are you being intentional at instilling character in your kids?

What are some character lessons you wish you had learned before adulthood?