top of page

50 Character Qualities We Hoped to Teach Our Children

By Barbara Rainey

First posted on

You’re getting your child’s classroom syllabus for all the benchmarks he’ll be required to know over the next months for science, math, art, and history. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what you needed to teach him for knowing God better?

Dennis and I made a list of 50 qualities we hoped to teach our children before they left home at 18. We worked on our list over many years and in the end didn’t accomplish all of them. But having a list of values, a vision for what we believed was crucial, kept us more focused on what mattered most.

Consider this post a parent curriculum … your teaching syllabus with one lesson plan tucked in to get you started. The course goal is to answer the question, How will you be your child’s primary influencer?

Dennis and I will never forget that incredible moment when our daughter Ashley was born. The doctor cleaned her up and handed her to us. Dennis said he wanted to blurt out, “Thanks for the gift, but where are the instructions?”

When we started this journey, we had a few ideas of what it meant to be a parent and raise children. We also had lots of idealistic resolutions about what we’d never do! In conversations short and long we talked randomly about what we hoped for: children who respected authority, who knew the value of work, and kids who were kind to others, especially those considered unlovable.

As a way to capture the hopes and vision we had for our children, we began to write our desires on paper. We knew releasing godly, mature children who could stand on their own at 18 would take intentionality from us.

Modeling was crucial, but so was instruction, as Solomon wrote to his son, “Listen my son to your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 1:8).

Raising children requires huge chunks of time, prayer, discipline, involvement, and relationship-building. To make the most of all of this parenting love, effort, and privilege, it’s best to know where you’re headed.

Here’s our list of the 50 character traits we wanted to teach our children. It is presented here pretty much as it appears on a now-tattered 8.5 x 11 piece of yellowed notebook paper. It’s not fancy, but it is a glimpse into our God-focused values for our kids.

At the at the end of the list, I’ll give you a practical way or two to begin to teach a few of these concepts to your children.

  1. Above all, fear God.

  2. Respect authority—trust and obey your parents.

  3. The importance of friendships.

  4. Be in love with Christ and focus on your relationship with Him, not just on doctrine or on biblical principles.

  5. Have compassion for the poor and orphans.

  6. Believe God for too much rather than too little.

  7. Real strength is found in serving, not in being served.

  8. The power of moral purity and a clean conscience.

  9. How to motivate people without manipulating them.

  10. How to handle failure.

  11. Keep your promises.

  12. The power of the tongue for good or evil.

  13. Give too much rather than too little.

  14. The importance of manners and common courtesies.

  15. View life through God’s agenda—the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) and the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-38).

  16. Give thanks to God in all things.

  17. The importance of prayer.

  18. The art of asking good questions and carrying on good conversation.