The development of positive, stable character traits should flow directly from spiritual growth. Attempts to train a child to be "good" will be relatively meaningless and have only limited success if that child has no personal relationship with God and no real understanding of His love and justice. A kid can make all the right spiritual noises and toe the line when Mom and Dad are watching, but what happens when no one is looking or when he goes off to college by himself? Spiritual maturity and virtuous character traits can't be instilled into children through a series of lectures. Instead, these things have to arise naturally and holistically out of the quality of life and the health of the relationships they experience at home.

What are the Christian character traits we should be aiming to encourage and develop in youngsters through our parental example and the wise use of unscheduled "teachable moments"? Here's an alphabetical checklist you might want to keep on hand for future reference:

•     Courage is something more than the daring bravado of a superhero. Children need to understand that it's a vital part of everyday life. It might mean having the confidence to attempt a difficult but worthy project, the nerve to say no to peer pressure or simply the courtesy to be outgoing and friendly to others even when you don't feel like it.

•     Determination can help your child avoid the temptation to become a pessimist. It can also equip him with the indispensable knowledge that present struggles are simply the normal prerequisite for future achievement. This in turn will enable him to concentrate on realistic goals and prepare him to face any hardships that may lie ahead.

•     Fidelity and chastity are rarely presented as virtues in contemporary society. That's why it's all the more important for parents to help their children grasp the benefits of reserving sexual activity for marriage. Kids also need to understand the serious potential consequences of sexual immorality, sexually transmitted infections and diseases, crisis pregnancies and the pain of a broken heart.

•     Honesty is not always rewarded in our culture, but it's a bedrock virtue. Without it, all of your child's most important relationships will be compromised. Children should be taught that truthfulness is critical in all of our interactions with other people. Dishonesty must be discouraged in all its forms.

•     Humility arises from an honest assessment of one's own strengths and weaknesses. It also involves submission to duly constituted authority. Most important, humility will motivate a child to stay dependent upon his Heavenly Father.

•     Kindness and friendliness should be presented to a child as admirable and far superior to "toughness." It's much better to understand than to confront, and gentleness, especially toward those who are younger or weaker, is a sign of strength. Do not allow your child to become a bully.

•     Love, according to Scripture, encompasses and surpasses all other virtues (see I Corinthians 13:4-7). Children should be taught — and shown — how to love not only their friends and neighbors, but even their enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).

•     Loyalty and dependability are prerequisites for success and effectiveness in many areas of life. A promise or commitment needs to be honored. If a child learns to be reliable and stand by his word, he will be trusted and blessed with increased opportunities throughout his life.

•     Orderliness and cleanliness may or may not be "next to godliness," but they do speak volumes about a person's self-respect and regard for others. Good grooming says, "I care enough about those around me to try to appear basically pleasant."

•     Respect is a critical commodity in all human relationships — a quality that has largely been lost in our culture and desperately needs to be regained. True respect encompasses our speech, behavior and attitudes toward virtually everything — life, property, parents, authority, friends, strangers, nature and God Himself.

•     Self-discipline and moderation are rare but valuable traits in a culture that claims that you can — and should — have it all. The exercise of self-control over physical, emotional and financial desires is not only pleasing to God, but it can help prevent illness, debt and burnout later in life.

•     Unselfishness and sensitivity are universally appreciated and respected. A child who is more concerned about others than himself will be seen as mature beyond his years and a blessing to all who know him.

It should be obvious that this list is only a starting point. Recognizing the value of these character traits and knowing how to impart them to your kids are two very different things. Sowing the seeds of genuine Christian character in the hearts and minds of kids is a subtle and delicate art. 

** taken from "Focus on the Family" website:

Until about age 7, a child absorbs the basic rituals of spirituality she's exposed to with little understanding of their significance. It's hard for the very young to conceive of a higher power or what religion and faith represent. Around 7, children in religious households enter a new phase of spiritual development, in which they begin to understand the symbolism of various spiritual icons and rituals. They also begin to better imagine the abstract idea of the existence of God.

Observing spiritual rituals is a wonderful way to feed a growing faith. Many families join a religious community at this stage if they haven't already, attending services as a family or enrolling their child in religious education. Others choose to explore spirituality at home by creating rituals and reading books.

Answer questions about the meaning of why things are done a certain way as best you can, or enlist a clergyperson or rabbi to explain what you don't know yourself. Exposure to spirituality helps transmit your values, too.

Rituals also give a growing child security and comfort. They become important touchstones in life that she can count on and later look back upon.

Your life nowOne-on-one time is important. But also critical is the nature of that time. Simply being together driving to school or rushing to martial arts practice isn't the same as spending deliberate, special time together.

Work into your schedule some going-out rituals in which the focus is on doing something together rather than accomplishing something together. That difference of intention gives a more intimate and meaningful tone to your shared time. Go out for ice cream, go to see a movie (just you and your child, not with a slew of friends), take your child to a museum you think she might like.