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Character, Parenting and Success


Parenting focuses on character rather than career results in a long term success.

More than 2000 years ago, people were trying to understand human nature. Aristotle and the ancient Greeks thought goodness, beauty, truth, ethics, character is the sum total of certain habitual qualities or strengths in a person that could be built up through repeated practice.


Today, James Stenson, in his book Compass: A Handbook on Parent Leadership re-framed these character strengths in modern day terms:
• Prudence is sound judgment and conscience
• Justice is a sense of responsibility and fair play
• Fortitude is courage and persistence
• Temperance is self-mastery, self-discipline and self-control
• Heart is magnanimity, greatness of heart, a capacity for compassion, understanding and forgiveness


Nowadays, we hear or read more often about:
• Increasing divorce rates, which is especially high among those married less than 5 years. Could it be that our youth failed to learn sound judgment about whom to marry and how to prepare for marriage?
• The debate on the Maintenance of Parents Act. Could it be that some children failed to learn justice and responsibility to their parents?
• Youth who commit suicide after encountering failure. Could it be that they failed to learn fortitude?
• Youth who get addicted to computer games. Could it be that they failed to learn temperance and self-mastery that the problem grew out of control?


Stenson has 30 years of experience with families. He established two independent secondary schools in USA and was a witness to the heartaches and triumphs of parents with young adults. Some parents succeeded with their children – they matured into excellent young men and women, even before they left school. Others met with disappointment and regret as their children struggled through adolescence and young adulthood – these children suffered from protracted immaturity, lack of self-mastery, self-destructive behaviour, aimlessness in life, and even troubles with careers or marriages or the law.


Stenson noted a key difference in parents as the children were growing up. In the former group, parents focused on forming their children for a lifetime; invisible strengths of mind, will and heart that could be summed up in the word CHARACTER. Parents in the latter group, on the other hand, seldom thought about the sort of men and women their children will grow up to become. If there were thoughts about their children’s future, these focused on what the children would do, in terms of a career. These parents saw less clearly what their mission and objectives were as parents, and family life was idealized as a steady series of pleasant activities.


While there are other factors that determine how our kids turn out, it is undeniable that parents and the home environment have a primary, significant influence. As a parent leader, what can you do to achieve a good balance between the focus on career and on character?

John Ooi is a father of six children. He writes regularly at It takes a Village to Raise a Child e-newsletter. Article is reproduced with permission.

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