As parents, we want every success and happiness for our children. Success and
happiness to me, is not derived from what we do or have, but rather how we define the
measures of these, and more importantly how we decide to feel about it. It’s about who we
are as a person first and foremost.
I feel that for my children to be successful and happy in life, their character is at the very
forefront as an important determining factor. Success in itself is a rather subjective matter,
and to each their own.
For any given situation, it is how we view things that make them “good” or “bad”
experiences. It is how we choose to think and feel about them that gives it the positive or
negative connotations. The key word here is “choose”. Thoughts and feelings can come
naturally, but we have a choice to accept, reject, or even change the course of these
thoughts and feelings, according to what we want to make out of it.
On the basis of how we think or feel about things, lies our values. It is our values that drive
our life’s perspectives, actions, and ultimately outcomes in things we do.
Thus, helping to build our children’s character and values from a young age is very
important to set the tone for them in life, as this is the foundation upon which they will build
their own life as they grow up.
My Mistake That Didn’t Go Down The Drain
In my parenting journey in raising two boys and playing my part to build their characters, I
have made numerous mistakes and learnt from them. And I accept that these mistakes are
necessary in order to help my children. No one is perfect nor always right, and these are
the same values I pass on to them.
One of the examples of my mistakes is during my first few years of parenting, where I
always thought that reinforcing positivity by way of offering generous praises and trying my
best to provide a positive environment will help build up my child’s self-esteem. Having a
healthy dose of self-esteem builds confidence and this can only lead to good things, right?
Well, I learnt that it is only true to a certain degree. I learnt from my mistake that
sometimes one can grow over-confident and this doesn’t always lead to only good things.
In fact, it can backfire. It can result in making someone want to strive to be a perfectionist
in life, or having a “cannot lose” attitude, and worse yet, not being able to accept and
handle failures in life.
Not that being a perfectionist is a flaw. It definitely isn’t. However, a perfectionist may take
things too hard on themselves and maybe feel that nothing is truly good enough if they
aren’t able to achieve the level of expectations they have set up for themselves. For me,
life is too short to dwell on life’s little setbacks and falling short of one’s own expectations.
Let The Rough Polish Them Up
In time, I’ve learnt that the best way to build my children’s character is to never sugar-coat
life for them. Let them go at things and experience both the good and bad, and let them
learn to handle their emotions and build their resilience and perspectives from the angles
of their mistakes.
One doesn’t grow through sunny days in the hay. It always takes adversity to have growth,
and to know what it feels like to be on the side of stormy days. So for me, character
building can be a rather rough patch. Of course it isn’t about purposely throwing them into
adversity. It’s about letting go, and letting them experience a wide aspect of things so that
they can see two sides of a coin.
Letting go, to me, includes letting them make wrong decisions. It’s never easy as parents
to see our children going down a path that leads to mistakes and failures, but I would
rather they get a little bit scratched and emerge stronger, than to never know how to
Hold The Torch, And Let Them Shine
This is also when parents come in, and provide guidance for them to see some light at the
end of the tunnel, instil life values related to the situation, and give them encouragement
and freedom to keep on following their own path, armed with a little more fresh
perspectives and values.
And on the note of experiencing two sides of a coin, I also feel that it’s a good way for
them to learn compassion. Going through both pleasant and unpleasant times will help
them feel more for others in their up and downtimes, and build them up to be better
Show, Not Tell…
I find that for my children, it’s easier for them to truly grasp and adopt values if they have
experiences to go with it. It stays with them and maybe even become a point of reference,
and builds up as a character that sticks. In a large sense, it’s about showing them, and not
Character building is a lifelong journey. It definitely doesn’t end with their childhood. Even
in adulthood, we continue to build our characters to be better versions of ourselves. I also
find that as I guide my children’s character building, I’m also changing and rebuilding some
of my own as my life’s perspectives and priorities change. And this is something I hope to
instil in my children too, that they will keep growing and learning, and changing with the
A mother of two boys, she was in the workforce for 10 years. Wanting more time to be with her growing kids, she ventured into self-employment to have more flexible timing to work around her children’s schedule.
Since walking out of her desk-bound job, Carol has found much fulfilment being the kids’ chauffeur doing school runs, being their home-baker on demand, and simply being there for them.
With her kids at a more independent stage now, she has more time on her hands to do things that bring joy to her – writing, reading, and running her own bookstore.