1. Put parenting first. This is hard to do in a world with so many competing demands. Good parents consciously plan and devote time to parenting. They make developing their children’s character their top priority.
2. Review how you spend the hours and days of your week. Think about the amount of time your children spend with you. Plan how you can weave your children into your social life and knit yourself into their lives.
3. Be a good example. Face it: human beings learn primarily through modeling. In fact, you can’t avoid being an example to your children, whether good or bad. Being a good example, then, is probably your most important job.
4. Develop an ear and an eye for what your children are absorbing. Much of what they take in has to do with moral values and character. Books, songs, TV, the Internet, and films are continually delivering messages—moral and immoral—to our children. As parents we must control the flow of ideas and images that are influencing our children.
5. Do not quarrel or make nuisances before children, do not encourage them to pick up argument, abuse other children. Train them to be polite, kind and tactful.
6. Read to your child. Helping to nurture a love for the written word will help your child to develop a love for reading later on.
7. Use the language of character. Children cannot develop a moral compass unless people around them use the clear, sharp language of right and wrong.
8. Punish with a loving heart. Today, punishment has a bad reputation. The results are guilt-ridden parents and self-indulgent, out-of-control children. Children need limits. They will ignore these limits on occasion. Reasonable punishment is one of the ways human beings have always learned. Children must understand what punishment is for and know that its source is parental love.
9. Learn to listen to your children. Influencing their lives is one of the greatest things you can do. It is easy to tune out our children, and a missed opportunity for meaningful guidance. Helping our children become good students also builds strong character.
10. Make a big deal out of the family meal. One of the most dangerous trends in America is the dying of the family meal. The dinner table is not only a place of sustenance and family business but also a place for the teaching and passing on of our values. Manners and rules are subtly absorbed over the table. Family mealtime should communicate and sustain ideals that children will draw on throughout their lives.