Parents want good things for their children, oftentimes better than they had themselves. This may be in the form of a good job, a big house, an extravagant wedding and so on. They may hope their children are doctors, star athletes, celebrities.
My goals in parenting are bigger than these. I want my children to be good people. I honestly do not care what they decide to do for a living, where they live or what kind of car they drive. Of course I want them to be able to provide for themselves, in a way that they are not struggling, but I want them to realize that having more doesn’t make one more content. It doesn’t equal a better life.
What is important are life values – the abstract ideas that define you as a person, the concepts that make you who you are. These are the things that set you apart, that ultimately determine your direction in life and influence every decision you make. No matter their choice in career and lifestyle, there are some very basic concepts I want them to master.
I want them to be kind. There is nothing to be lost by being nice to others. Speaking in a kind tone, apologizing when you lose your temper costs nothing but means a lot. People can have bad days and forget their manners, but that doesn’t diminish their worth. At these times, kindness can transform a situation and make it better.
I want them to be courteous. Saying please and thank you are a start. Being aware of your personal space and taking care to not intrude on others’ personal space is also important. Apologizing when it’s called for is essential. There is no excuse for rudeness. Having a bad day does not entitle you to be disrespectful to others.
I want them to be helpful. There are many people in need. If we can, we should. We may not be in the top one percent, but we have more than many others. Whether we give money or time depends on the circumstances and our own resources. We should also be mindful that there are ways to help others that are not necessarily tangible and that helping those who have more is just as necessary as helping those who have less.
I want them to be principled. There is no excuse for cheating or lying. There is a saying: “Cheaters never prosper.” Well, of course they do, but at what cost? Sacrificing your principles only to get ahead is a sure path to unhappiness. There is tremendous satisfaction in accomplishing something honestly. Getting ahead through dishonest means is cheating yourself out of both the learning experience and the pleasure of accomplishment.
I want them to be conscientious. If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well. If you say you are going to do something, make sure you follow up. With that in mind, don’t commit to things that you are not likely to be able to complete. People respect those who know and acknowledge their limits but will not trust those who fail to come through on a promise. Cutting corners is cheating and will likely result in a job needing to be redone.
I want them to be thoughtful. Paying attention to and remembering details when people share their personal lives is important. If someone is going to trust you enough to tell you about their hopes, dreams and aspirations, you should listen and take mental notes. If you later hear about something that may interest them or help them achieve their goals, mention it to them (or send an email or text). People remember the little things you do for them. These are the moments that make life worth living.
I want them to be understanding. Today’s world is very diverse. Technology has made it easy to connect people of different cultures, religions and races from all over the world. We don’t all share the same background and beliefs, but different does not equal wrong. It is possible — I would say imperative — that we learn to get along with those who do not share our opinions and values.
Despite what we see in the media, there are many good people out there. Those are the people we should be holding up to emulate, to serve as role models for our youth.
Celebrity is fleeting. Those who are remembered are those who make a difference – the good people.