Build good habits if you want your child to be happy

Character equals good habits. If you are systematic and persevering in sculpting good habits of thinking and acting in your child, you will have a happy child and a happy adult. You must carve these habits from the living rock of a deep and loving respect for others. With such habits your child will thrive in adult life. Parenting is less about looking after the now, and more about preparing children to take control of their own future lives and to connect with others in lifelong relationships.

Never forget that you are sculpting for life. This is the essence of parenting for character. Provided food, shelter and family love are not lacking, happiness in adult life is largely determined by the good habits we have in our character – habits of optimism, generosity, honesty, loyalty, self-control and clear-headed problem-solving. It is upon our own habitual behaviours and attitudes that the relationships we form will flourish or flounder.

Happiness does not depend on feelings, or on what others do or don’t do, so do your best to raise your children so that they are not tossed around by impulsive reactions – outbursts, overeating, putting things off, dominating fears, grudges that destroy – based on passions and emotions working to their detriment. Raise them so that their good intentions are not thwarted by ingrained habits of laziness. Raise them from their youngest, most formative years with a sure sense of what will enrich them as human beings, and with the gumption to walk away from anything that will diminish them or lead them to use others for their own gain.

My experience is that parents who keep their focus on these priorities, patiently and lovingly, give their children something of incalculable worth.

The Talmud, a type of ancient Jewish guidebook for life, sums it all up: ‘The one great requisite is character’. Plutarch, the famous Greek historian writing in Roman times, knew how to cut to essentials: ‘Character’, he wrote, ‘is simply strongly established habit’.

This article was written by Dr, Andrew Mullins.

He is the author of ‘Parenting for Character: Equipping Your Child for Life’, with editions in several languages.