Inspiration

The Attributes of Great Parents


Each parent as an individual influences a child’s health. Regardless of the health of a marriage, each parent brings personal qualities and skills to the parenting task. No matter what your circumstances are, you can, for the benefit of your children, work to develop the personal attributes of a great parent. And the more your children are at risk, the more significant your efforts need to be. If you are a sixty-hour-a-week working mom, a single parent, or a parent of a blended family, the odds are against your children becoming as highly healthy as they could be–unless you take action to reduce the risks.

Great parents teach and model virtues. The teaching of virtues is an area in which the parents’ individual attributes are essential. Parents want their children to practice virtues. The virtues that parents in one survey rated the highest and considered to be essential to teach to their children were honesty and truthfulness (91 percent), courteousness and politeness (84 percent), self-control and self-discipline (83 percent), and doing their best in school (82 percent).

Teaching virtues is first and foremost the job of parents. Virtues are more effectively caught than taught. Children are most likely to develop the virtues their parents model. Children best learn from their parents that virtues are both valuable and essential, which motivates them to make the effort to learn and practice them. Parents, however, are surprisingly candid in admitting their failure to teach the virtues they’d like their children to learn. According to one national survey, parents reported the most difficult virtue to teach is self-control or self-discipline. The second most difficult area is teaching children to save money and spend it carefully.

Of course, virtues are taught by instruction as well as modeling, and some good tools are available to help children learn. Some examples of resources include a PBS series based on William Bennett’s The Book of Virtues and character education curriculums that are available through bookstores and the Internet. Find one, read it, and then being practicing it! This will be an important step toward teaching virtues to your children.

Great parents develop their parenting skills. Many of the skills parents need in order to raise highly healthy children are learned, not natural. Highly healthy parents will teach and pass on these skills to their children. If you weren’t taught or didn’t learn these skills, it is suggested that you (1) commit to learning and improving your parenting skills and (2) find a mentor to help you develop parenting skills and hold you accountable.

Elizabeth Pantley, author of Perfect Parenting, offers four broad approaches for positive parenting that we each can learn and put into practice. She says positive parenting is based on:

Action rather than reaction;
Knowledge rather than chance;
Thoughtfulness rather than anger; and
Common sense rather than nonsense.

You can also study and understand the normal development stages of children so you can distinguish “normal” behaviors from “problems.” Learning and developing thoughtful approaches to child guidance and discipline is a much better strategy than reacting in anger or resorting to manipulation.

Great parents invest their time and treasure wisely. Parents must choose the best ways to invest their time and their treasure (money and things) in their marriage and in their children. Those who choose not to invest wisely will negatively affect the health of their children, their grandchildren, and their great-grandchildren! Overindulging children is not essential to their health or well-being; it may, in fact, harm them. Parents who overinvest in giving their treasure will often make the mistake of underinvesting in giving their time. According to one national survey, almost half of all parents say their children’s “fashion demands” have forced them to sacrifice a family vacation. What is truly tragic is that 25 percent of children surveyed listed a family vacation as one of the top three ways to spend quality time with their parents, while only 11 percent of parents thought so.

Child psychologist Richard Woolfson warns that parents should not take self-sacrifice to extremes because they may end up resenting the child–and the child the parent. Furthermore, overindulging prevents children from learning essential truths about life. He adds, “No matter how many consumer sacrifices a parent willingly makes for their child, children still need to accept that there are limits and that part of family life involves thinking about others.” Many parents have the delusion (a fixed false belief) that treasure is more influential in shaping children than time. But the simple truth is that children internalize, value, and model the virtues of the people they most respect and with whom they spend their time. So parents who spend generous amounts of time with their children have the greatest opportunity to influence and shape their children’s lives.


By: Walt Larimore


iMOM Contributor

Walt Larimore, M.D. has been called “one of America’s best known family physicians.” He is a nationally-known and nationally sought after speaker and health expert.


Related Articles


  • KrisFromMI

    Well…..I hate to be a negative nelly for the first comment….LOL…But here is my story and I don’t know where else to put it. I have been searching the internet SO much the last few days. I just need some advice. Me and my husband have been together for going on 18 years. We have been married for almost 8 of them years. I was 27 he was 33 when we very first got together. I had 4 children. When we met he was not in a very good place. he was HEAVILY addicted to drugs and pretty much homeless. We seen each other a few times just “around” not dating or anything. He came to my house one night, and straight up told me, he had a SERIOUS problem and wanted to stop. That was the begining for us.Well life went along….we have been together ever since. we have had VERY bad downs and VERY good up’s! I will spare you all all of the details. Well, this is where I feel the demise of our relationship took the turn it is to at this point in time. Last year one of my husbands friends ( a much older friend at 74) got sick and eventually passed away. Him and his wife and me and my husband were very close ( she was much younger than her husband at 48 maybe). She was who I considered one of my best friends. We talked about EVERYTHING. Well I found out that a month after HER husband passed away that her and MY husband spent endless hours on the phone to eachother everyday. They would talk from the time my husband left the house in the morning (he is a truck driver) until the time he got home at night. Monday through Friday they talked for a minimum of 6 hours a day. I talked to “her” probably 5 to six times a week M-F and much more often on the weekends. I figured out one weekend that something wasn’t adding up. My husband told me a couple things that I KNEW didn’t tell him. After thinking about it over night, I figured out that he had been talking to “her” because she was the ONLY one I had said any of these things to. I asked my husband if he had been talking to “her”. He said yea, once in a while. I was like OK. ( “thought” it’s ok THEY were friends too) Well my mind would not let it rest. I looked on his phone and there were no calls from her or to her. That kind of boggled me. So I looked on out phone account.I ALMOST passed out!!! There were 6555 minutes of them talking to eachother in approx 20 days of the month that we were into. I didn’t know WHAT to do. He was sleeping in his chair. I walked outside, I went to my other girlfriend’s house and poured my heart out to her. She cried with me. I thought Hmmmmm….I am gonna call “her” off on my hubbys phone and see what her reaction would be to it being ME. :) She said Hiiiii……I said Hey…..she asked what I was up to…I said oh not much. I just got a question for ya…she said yea? I asked her if she had talked to my husband lately…..she says yea once in a while….I was like WHAT?! once in a while?!?! she hung up on me and has NEVER answered me again. I MARCHED to OUR house and gave my husband ONE last chance to tell me the truth. I asked him HOW much do you talk to “her” and he was adiment that it was ONCE IN A WHILE. I busted out my computer with the phone records on it and asked him AGAIN……NOW tell me……HOW often do you talk to her? well needless to say it has been ROUGH…..VERY rough. We have been working on our marriage, we do really good for a while and then something happens and I find myself dwelling on WHY did he so this to me…….Well THIS weekend he threw me ANOTHER blow that I am TRYING to deal with. He told me that he doesn’t find my breast attractive, AT ALL, actually he said that they just TOTALLY turn him off….he said he didn’t want to hurt my feelings but they just DON’T. He continued on to ask me if I breast fed my kids when they were born….I was TOTALLY dumbfounded and didn’t even know what to do. All I could do was cry! I feel SO horrible. There is NOTHING I can do about the way my breast are. I am getting older and YES I have had FOUR children! I am by NO means a beauty queen (far from it) but MAN…..for being 44 and having FOUR kids I THOUGHT I looked pretty darn good. But he busted that balloon too. I feel SO insignifigant and I don’t know WHAT to do anymore. I feel like NOTHING I do….or don’t do is right. I feel like I will NEVER make him happy so when do I QUIT trying to make HIM happy and start on making ME happy? I don’t know….I guess I just want some advice. I am 44 years old I am 5’7″ tall, I weigh 148 lbs. Part of me says IF he doesn’t “want” me, I am SURE I can find someone that DOES. But THAT is NOT me…….I LOVE my husband. I WANT to make HIM happy…..BUT I NEED to feel happy too :(

    • Karen

      Oh Kris, my heart goes out to you! What a heartbreaking situation you are in! In addition to the grief of losing a good friend you’re grieving the loss of trust in, and betrayal by, 2 of those who mean the most to you! Tragically, it sounds like grief has “thrown” them together, inappropriately. I hope someone has given you the name of a good Christian counselor in your area who can help you through this. And marriage counselor. This is too much to bear and sort out on your own…I’m so glad you have another friend you’ve been able to process this with, and cry with. Lean on that/those friend(s). I don’t know if this will help, but I heard it once……Set aside time(s), and amount of time, each day to give yourself permission to grieve. Then move through your day telling yourself at such-and-such a time you can grieve with abandon but right now you need to function. Maybe ___ minutes every 1/2 hour or hour, to begin with? I’m praying that you will have God’s wisdom and God’s strength for this moment. This hour. Today. Every day.

      • KrisFromMI

        Thank You Karen! :) I was begining to wonder if anyone read these things LOL Yes it does stink. I have always thought of myself as a very strong person, but THIS particular thing has thrown me for a loop. He still to this day “says” that nothing “physical” happened. My feelings are that all of it….physical and/or emotional is wrong. If they were doing nothing wrong than WHY were all of the calls and text deleted and also “pictures”, of WHAT I have no idea. I have had several people that know us say that they had seen things earlier. It all plays with my heart. I WANT to believe my husband. But in my heart of hearts I fear that he is lying to me. Then I have other people that have told me the stuff they have seen, and it tears me apart to think about it. My problem is that I am the type of person to just put on a happy face and keep all my feelings tucked inside. Sometimes though I BLOW my cork. It takes an awful lot…..but when it goes….it goes :)
        Some days I think Oh I will be fine! I can sort this all out. I was doing really good….then the this past weekend happened and I though WHAT have I been doing all of this time?!?!? I feel like a fool. Since the “friend” episode happened I have been trying really hard to be more flirtatious, dressing to seduce him or what not. Then I get the revalation from him that WOW I really don’t even turn him on :( He tells me I LOVE YOU! I told him I think that HIS definition of love and MY definition of love must be 2 COMPLETELY different things. I would NEVER do the things and say the things to him (the man I LOVE) that he does to me and he has no response to that.I think that he has some VERY deep issues that he needs to deal with and I am not capable of helping him with that. We can help each other with a lot of things and we have but I don’t know if his upbringing or WHAT his issues really are. I know that HE is not a very happy person, he is very negative about almost everything and he always thinks he has it the worst of ANYONE. I have tried for going on 18 years to help him through all of the troubles that he has had. BUT these issues I can’t fix……at least on my own. I WISH I didn’t love this man with EVERYTHING that I am. I wish I hated his guts and could care less….but I don’t. To answer your question about counciling…I have been in contact with one place, but they said that I would need to contact a different place because they deal more with people that are mentally “unstabe” I understand what they mean but somedays I feel UNSTABLE. I need to contact some other places. Like I say….I am having the days now where I “think” I can deal with this my self. :)

  • JBA

    I was truly blown away after reading this article. I was expecting to read about how to shop ’til you drop or have a girls’ night out with your closest friends in order to feel like a princess. But the author emphasizes that a woman should focus on her inner beauty instead of what the world considers beautiful is only external and very superficial. BRAVO, Nancy Jenkins! After reading just a few lines of your article, immediately, I realized I am a princess. I am a Cinderella. Better yet, I am a child of the King who possesses so much more than I ever realized. I do possess those internal qualities that God truly admires-being kind, bold, hopeful, resourceful, and honorable. I thank God for using you to help me understand that I am truly beautiful!

  • SaraLynn

    Thank you for this article. I loved it except one of the primary things that hit me in this new Cinderella movie was to Be Forgiving. It was a powerful scene at the end of the movie when Cinderella turns and tells her stepmother that she forgives her. Unforgiveness can destroy a person from the inside out! Cinderella could never have a happily ever after if she was not forgiving.