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What are the 7 Traits of Effective Parenting?

It’s a simple framework of seven powerful traits that will help you grow in your parenting journey, and be the most effective parent you can be. As you grow in these seven traits, you can impart these same traits to your kids. 

The seven traits of effective parenting are well researched, based on the foundations provided through Scripture, enriched by years of application in family counseling settings, as well as the great research surrounding the authoritative style of parenting. 

FIRST STEP: Take the 7 Traits Assessment

The best way to get started is to take Focus on the Family’s 7 Traits of Effective Parenting Assessment. The assessment, which takes just 5-8 minutes, will give you an honest look at your unique strengths, plus some areas that could use a little help.

How to use this page

Once you’ve taken the 7 Traits of Effective Parenting Assessment, you’ll have a good idea of what are your strengths as a parent, and what might be areas for growth. Click on one of the traits below to navigate to information on that particular trait. 

Adaptability is flexibility of the mind to adjust to emotional and situational demands of day to day living. Instilling accommodating and easygoing characteristics in your children.

If you are in the area of Adaptability​

Congratulations! Scoring high on this trait means you are able to handle what life throws your way. You have flexibility, which helps you see situations from multiple perspectives. This helps you not get stuck spinning on negativity. I picture adaptability as the secret sauce to resiliency and flexibility as an essential ingredient to relationships. You are able to lead your family through difficulty, adversity, and stress.  You are also able to teach your kids how to gain a more accurate perspective when times get difficult.  

You are willing to face life, and you do not avoid stress. You see stress as an opportunity to grow and learn. Stress is a given, especially when you became a parent. You help provide your family with a balanced perspective when life gets complicated or out of control.

Your family benefits from your ability to creatively find solutions to problems and new perspectives to difficult circumstances.  Do you remember the show MacGyver? MacGyver was known for his ability to adapt to any difficult situation. You are the emotional MacGyver in your home.  

Great sports teams adapt to what each opponent brings. You are able to adjust plans according to what is coming against you or your family; however, adaptability relies on all of the other six traits in order for it to work best.

You can share your strength in adaptability by…

  • Modeling and teaching your kids how to effectively manage stress. Teach them healthy ways to reenergize and take care for themselves as they encounter stress and adversity in life.
  • Teaching ways to let things go. Show how you are able to move toward grace, forgiveness and optimism when your brain wants to go toward anger, unforgiveness, and negativity. Love, grace, and respect are essential traits to go along with this opportunity to teach adaptability.
  • Modeling and teaching how to handle different personalities, opinions and ideas. Each family has many different personalities leading to various opinions and ideas. This is where love and respect have to be present in order for adaptability to have a change of working.
  • Modeling a positive attitude toward unexpected changes or circumstances. Each day truly has enough worries of its own like Scripture reminds us. A positive attitude with gratitude and grace mixed with adaptability will help this feel authentic.
  • Modeling and teaching how to pause and maintain a perspective when life is chaotic or stressful. Read Philippians 4:8 with your family. This is an opportunity to bring gratitude, boundaries and adaptability together.  

Your modeling and teaching of adaptability can help your family become more resilient. Be intentional about imparting these skills to your kids, they will thank you some day.

How to in the area of Adaptability​

If you scored low on adaptability you may have difficulty adjusting to change, going on vacations, handling stress, responding to failure and imperfection, and/or having “unexpecteds”. Imagine life being able to handle what life brings your way? What would this be like for you and your family? Does this sound impossible to you?

Abraham Lincoln’s road to the White House included failures, several defeats and a nervous breakdown.  As parents we have to constantly be adapting – adapting to different personalities, failures, conflict and unexpected illness and loss. We have to adapt to the ages and stages of children as well as the onslaught of activities, demands, and technology. It is a constant wrestling match with whatever normalcy could be.

According to a recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association, Millennials and Gen Xers report the highest stress levels out of the four generational groups (Milennials, Gen Xers, Boomers, and Matures). Both Milennials and Gen Xers report a lot of stress from work and being angry due to stress.

I recently read an article about police in India finding a twelve year-old girl living in the forest with a group of monkeys. She was running on her hands and feet, eating off the ground, naked and unable to talk. I don’t know who was stressed out more, the girl or the policeman that was attacked by the monkeys as he rescued the girl. We are not saying you need to adapt by literally living with monkeys, just kids. Children are full of energy, mistakes, imperfections, and sinful natures.  

Our brains are designed to change when you have kids. Moms’ brains begin to change during pregnancy, and dads’ brains change as they spend more time with their kids.  These changes show we were designed to adapt.

Our brains and bodies are incredibly adaptive, but we are sometimes overtaken by stress. Stress, over time, can take a toll on our brains and bodies, and we end up becoming reactive instead of responsive. In other words, stress robs us of our patience and emotional self-control.

If saying “no” is difficult for you and your pace of life is constantly draining you, you will not adapt well and will most likely burn out. Self-care is crucial for the effectiveness of parents. One of the great lessons our kids can learn from us is how to handle adversity, pain, stress, disappointment and uncomfortable feelings through an unrelenting trust in God.

Adaptability is a part of life. Your growth in this area will help you lower your stress level and make it much more pleasant for your family to be with you in times of stress and/or change.

A low score in adaptability most likely means that stress tends to control you. A great way to increase your level of adaptability is to…

  • Line up your will with God’s will – Pray for God to make His will clear in your life. Pray for God to line up your heart and desires with His. This is the ninja level of adaptability. Wisdom is an essential component to healthy adaptability.   
  • Set small goals and celebrate along the way. Accomplishing small goals can lead to a string of successes energizing you toward larger victories. You can make goals to learn more about technology instead of just saying “no”. You can adapt and implement parenting techniques and limits to technology.
  • Learn to be flexible and creative. Families love it when inflexible and traditional-type personalities work on being a little more flexible and creative. Find ways to let others be in control. Let things be a bit imperfect. Have relationship be the focus rather than the task or safety. If you are overwhelmed, try to listen and see things from multiple perspectives instead of trying to control the outcome.
  • Pause enough to see the bigger picture and learn to see situations from multiple perspectives. I love asking clients I meet with, “what is another way to look at this?”
  • Manage your barrel. Pretend you have a barrel with a spigot. Draw the barrel on a piece of paper. The demands you have are what come out of the spigot. Write those out. Demands could include attention and time your kids want from you. Refilling the bucket in order to do these could include exercise, quiet time, walks, sleep, reading, and movies – whatever recharges you. Write these and make sure you have refills in order to have outputs.
  • Let go. The more you hold on to something with an outstretched arm, the heavier the object becomes. It is not the weight of what you hold on to, but how long you hold it. The same thing is true for things and relationships in our lives. Some people create unnecessary stress by holding on to grudges toward past wrong doings from others.
  • Don’t let emotions be in the driver’s seat. Emotions influence the way you think and can create poor decision-making. Slow down enough to think rather than riding your emotions. Learn to have an optimistic perspective. 

Adaptability is not easy, but necessary. It requires wisdom and energy, but will be well worth it. Your family will certainly benefit! What a gift!

More Resources on Adaptability

Parenting

Adaptability as a Parent

The ability to adjust and respond with flexibility and optimism is a lifeline to the struggling family. Learn how adaptability is one of the seven traits of effective parenting.

Read More »
Respect

Respect recognizes the best in people. It is more than acknowledging accomplishments. Children and teens are worthy of respect because God created them and loves them.

If you are in the area of Respect​

Respect is one of the main ingredients of effective and connected communication. It involves recognizing the God-given value of every person. It seen through patience and helping others see that you value their opinion, thoughts and presence, even with their imperfections.

You most likely provide your kids a great sense of value, belonging and competence. You provide opportunities for opinions to be shared and discussed through attentive listening. If you use humor, you use it for connection rather than to assert power or create shame. Most importantly, you model God’s instruction. He wants us to pursue wisdom more than riches and power. Through respect, you help by training your kids to become more confident and wise decision-makers.

In a study out of the Journal of Cybertherapy and Rehabilitation, researchers analyzing differences between permissive and harsh parenting styles, found that parents who let kids do whatever they wanted, were slightly more likely to develop bullies than parents using a harsh parenting style.

You provide the helpful and refreshing balance of correction and connection when disciplining and teaching life-skills. You are willing to listen, but are not afraid to set up rules out of respect for limits, authority and each other. You are also not threatened by your kids asking questions regarding rules and expectations. Your kids are learning to advocate, think, and resolve disagreements. These are excellent relationship skills!

You can help your family learn to grow in the area of respect by:

  • Modeling the actions of listening and observing instead of simply reacting. You can help train other family members how to attentively listen to others.
  • Teaching the value of “stop signs” in the home. For example, if your child interrupts another one of your children, you can remind the interrupter that he just went through a stop sign and ran into the other child’s door. You can be creative with this, but the concept is respecting that what others have to say is just as important as what they have to say. Stop signs are there to help us develop patience and awareness, which are key ingredients to respect.
  • Clearly communicating and reinforcing limits, expectations and love in the home.
  • Teaching to not be hyper focused on fairness, but rather focusing on what is best for the situation and the person.
  • Teaching kids how to make wise decisions. Help your children think beyond themselves and the moment. For instance, regarding media discernment, you can teach your child to ask, “Is what I am about to watch respecting my future wife or husband?” You can also teach your child to strive to be thinking about, “what’s it like (for other people) to be with me?”

How to in the area of Respect​

Scoring low on this may mean several different things; however, the fact that you are taking the time to read this is a sign of respect toward your family.  You may have grown up in a home that communicated through sarcasm, loudness, or power.

If sarcasm worked well to communicate with you growing up, keep in mind that it may not work well with your child’s personality. Sarcasm is not genuine and can be quite degrading and disrespectful. Make connection your goal, not power and control. 

Respect is a central trait to effective communication, resolving conflict and receiving respect in return. You may not have received opportunities to express your own opinions growing up or may not have had great models of respect.

You may have difficulties letting others share their opinions, because you tend to have a more opinionated (inflexible) personality. This may be especially difficult if your children’s opinions oppose your opinions.

Children and teens that I have met with in my counseling practice over the past 18 years have consistently valued and respected their parents when they were given the opportunity to be heard and to express their point of view. Being able to express their point of view and be heard gave them the skills to develop a true sense of identity and respect. It also helped them grow into young adults ready to tackle adversity.

Here are six things you can consider working on as you work on “respect” as a parent”:

  • Consider taking the time to pause and explain to your kids your expectations and the reasoning behind them. It is not disrespect to know the “why” behind expectations and rules. Picture this as if you are creating rules for a game or a sport, the game is difficult to follow if the rules and expectations are not clear in their purpose and definition.
  • Help your kids become decision-makers. Help them as they make decisions. This takes time and patience. You can put a reminder on your phone, your wrist (silicone wrist bands with words), a sticky or anything else you will remember to look at and write – TIME and PATIENCE – DECISION-MAKERS.
  • Pause and think about how your child may interpret or misinterpret what you are saying. Consider their personality. Ask yourself “what is it like for my son or daughter to be with me?”
  • Work very hard at noticing opportunities to compliment rather than criticize. Become the “Noticer” of uniqueness or great things in your home. Your children will love this about you.
  • If you’re a funny person, use humor that doesn’t hurt your children. Build them up. Your words are building blocks to their identity. Use your humor to provide a lift when things get tough. If you’re not very funny, like most of us parents, find some riddles or jokes and write them on a napkin or note for your kids. You can put them at their place on the table or in their lunch bag. They will look forward to what your find.
  • Ask your kids their opinion and sincerely listen to their point of view. It doesn’t mean it’s the right point of view, kids just love to be heard and known. You’re still in charge, but you’re listening.

More Resources on Respect

Respecting Your Teenager

How do I give my teenager the respect he deserves? I’ll admit that we butt heads pretty often – he’s the type that requires a lot of correction and guidance, and as a result ours isn’t the most peaceful household on the block. But I honestly don’t believe that I’ve ever done anything to denigrate him as a person. In spite of this, he’s forever telling me that I don’t “respect” him as I should. What does it mean for a parent to “respect” a child? I can’t just let him have his own way all the time – can I?

Read More »
Intentionality

Intentionality is to be present with the purposes of guiding, teaching and influencing their child toward personal growth and healthy relationships.

If you are in the area of Intentionality​

It is fantastic that you are dependable, involved and focused on helping your kids grow. Your ability to plan, think ahead, prepare, learn, and emotionally invest yourself is a great gift to your family. Daniel in the Old Testament was intentional with his prayer life, and he continued despite adversity. He was committed to God with all his heart.

Keep in mind that true intentionality has relationship at its core. Since you are intentional, you are most likely willing to talk about difficult topics with your kids. Your goal is to prepare them for the next stages, situations, and relationships they will be facing.

I never grow tired of hearing a dad or mom tell me that they write encouraging notes on paper or over text to their family. It is a simple and beautiful way to connect with others. The ability to think and write is a miracle in itself, but to write or draw something that speaks into another person’s world with impact and blessing is truly awesome!

Intentionality also means that you are willing to do the hard work of parenting. You learn about technology to be able to truly parent your child in a world surrounded with technology. You are more likely to have monitoring and/or filtering software on all or most technology devices.

You are more likely to have family contracts and lists that help clarify boundaries and expectations. You are also more likely to take time off of work to spend time with your family. Parenting takes time, sacrifice, and hard work, which is why intentionality is crucial when the pace of life for parents tends zoom by. You can help your family become more focused and relational by:

  • Teaching how to prioritize. Prioritizing sometimes means going against your own emotions. You can make a list of “Needs” and rank them in order from 1 – 10 and share your lists with each other (e.g., air, food, water). Next, make a list of “Wants” and rank them. This is the list that will help teach your kids prioritizing skills. Kids greatly benefit from learning about needs and wants. Needs and wants tend to jump around depending on how we feel in the moment. For example, if I’m hungry, a hamburger jumps up on my list of wants into the top ten. If I’m not hungry, then it stays out of the top ten. Intentionality helps keep wants where they need to be for life and relationships to go well.
  • Modeling sincere attention to relationship and necessary details. Jesus was attentive to both of these, as He remained focused on His purpose and calling. As mom or dad, you can help your children genuinely care enough for relationships and details to say “no” to other things. This is difficult, but worth it.
  • Seeking wisdom and not just knowledge. People are inundated with knowledge, but seem to lack wisdom. Wisdom takes intentional pausing, thinking, reading, reflecting, and responding. Discernment takes careful thought and intentional connection with God. Plugged In helps provide parents the necessary information to make the best decisions regarding entertainment.
  • Developing and implementing healthy and consistent limits and boundaries. You can help design contracts and plans for the home. You can also explore and apply filters and necessary software to keep your family safe while surfing the Internet.
  • Planning ahead. This means taking the time to know what is ahead. This is great for kids to learn how to do. You can gently, and with grace, help your kids plan so that they develop a sense of security and responsibility. Help them by teaching them the skills of planning and having them plan some things. Kids love to feel in control. Give them some control as they plan. You can be creative and make it fun.
  • Initiating communication. You take the time to listen and talk. Your goal is connection, and you are able to, most of the time and whenever you can, put things aside and connect. You are willing to tackle difficult topics with your kids such as sex, drugs, friends, decision-making, etc.

Intentionality takes a lot of energy and effort, but helps keep your family close to a consistent path. As you model and teach this trait, you will gain respect especially if it is done with love and grace.

How to in the area of Intentionality​

The men who have pride and peace of mind
And the respect of other men…
The men who say in their twilight years
That they’d do it all again…
The men who love the flowers and trees
And watching animals (and kids) play…
These are wealthy men, for what they have
Can never be taken away.
– George E. Young

I picture these men taking the necessary time to pause, see and connect. Pausing takes awareness and effort. It doesn’t require perfection or even adequacy. The Scoring low on intentionality may mean several different things including that you may be quite busy and/or disorganized. Regardless of the reason, the fact that you are reading this article means that you are being intentional! Changing takes time, effort, and commitment. You are beginning all three!

Greatness in most things like music, sports, and art require hours and hours of hard work and diligence. How much more effort and time do great marriages and great parenting require? A lot!! In reality, we will never be perfect spouses or parents no matter how much time and effort we invest into our families. However, through intentionality, we can pursue growth and connectedness in our families.

Intentionality really is about what we pay attention to throughout the day. The latin root for intentionality is intentio, which means “directed at”. Let’s be real – we are inundated with distractions, some louder than others. In order to work on intentionality, we need to learn how to become more laser focused.

You can become more focused by…

  • Paying attention to and making time for the small stuff. Each day, try to make a list of just a few goals related to what is important to you and accomplish them. For example, write a note of love to my wife, write a note of affirmation to my daughter, and write a note of blessing to my son could be three great things to accomplish in a day within your intentionally connected list. Then, the next day, you can expand your list and keep adding to your list of small changes in attention and connection. These small changes end up creating large changes.
  • Defining what is important to you. What are your wants and in what order? Our needs are clear – God, air, food, water, shelter, clothes. Our wants switch according to the time of day, day of the week, month of the year, and age and stage of life. Our wants are not only dependent on our emotions, but also our values.
  • Taking control of your time and schedule, as well as your family’s. This requires knowing how to set limits. In a study out of the University of California Berkley, researchers studied the sleep habits of 2,700 teens. The researchers discovered that later bedtimes were correlated with emotional issues in young adulthood. They also found that kids with healthy sleep cycles (approximately nine hours of sleep per night) did better academically. In order for kids to learn to reset their changing circadian clock that leans toward later and later, parents can help their teen work on setting limits on bedtimes and technology with the goal of preparing their brain for the next day.
  • Taking time to connect. Taking time to connect with God and family are priorities over all other relationships. If there isn’t time for these, things get off balance and life runs you and begins to eat you alive. Make time in your schedule to surprise each of your kids for a quick lunch date at their school. You can write a note and surprise to tickets to a movie or a homemade coupon for a walk to the park. Be creative, have fun, and make time. 
  • Learning to plan ahead. This is difficult and takes organization. Many of us have the skill of procrastination down. Planning ahead brings peacefulness to not only your life, but also the life of those in your family. I know of some people who plan months and months ahead. I’m just talking days ahead. Intentionality thrives on simplicity.
  • Teaching your kids about life at each stage. Each stage of a child’s life has many things to be learned. You get the opportunity to help prepare a child for what is to come. You also get the privilege of teaching a child how to understand and manage what they are currently facing. This requires some intentional unplugging and disconnecting from the world in order to connect.

Intentionality doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep it simple, but be focused. We all pay attention to something, we just have to figure out what that is and why. Do we want to be focused on what we are focusing on or are there better things to focus on? This is a great opportunity to shift and take action.

More Resources on Intentionality

Love

Steadfast love is foundational to the other traits. It begins with provision, and creates the foundation for boundaries. Those three create the opportunity for teaching and developing a sense of mission/vision in our children, which leads to an identity as a child of God.

If you are in the area of Love​

Excellent news for your family! You scored high on the foundational trait “love”. Steadfast love is an important trait because it is a building block for the other traits. You have an important ingredient for your home. It’s not always easy to sacrifice, pay attention or find energy to interact, connect or correct, especially when most of us are juggling busy schedules and depleted energy levels. You provide “emotional glue” for your family. There is a lot of messiness, self-sacrifice, flexibility, and energy that goes into building relationships in families.

I have seen a few moms and dads, even though they are exhausted, take the time to pause, laugh and play with their kids. Kids over time remember these moments and feel a sense of connection that they are unable to clearly explain. You most likely bring lightheartedness and sincerity to your home, which are awesome gifts for your family!

Love is also filled with learning how to live with others despite their imperfections. This flexibility only grows over time, because there is a constant need to adjust, learn, and respond to the differences between each other. You bring a refreshing flexibility, so that disagreements and negativity don’t get stuck spinning.

Because you scored high on love, you are also more likely to tell others in your family that you “love them” in various ways (i.e., time, gifts, encouraging words, and other creative ways). Family members are more likely to feel a sense of belonging, worth, and competence when they are around you because of this.

Ultimately, you help your family experience connection and bonding. What is incredibly exciting is that God is love, so you are also providing a picture of one of God’s core characteristics. Here are five practical ways you can help “pass-on” this great parenting trait:

How to in the area of Love​

Great work coming to this page.  This is the first step toward being a more loving parent.  Being a loving parent is not easy, but great for your kids.  Scoring low on this does not make you a non-loving parent.  It just means that what you may think is “loving” may not be the connecting love your family could have from you. 

There are many reasons why you may have scored low on the “Love” trait.  Regardless, the exciting part is that there is plenty you can do about it. Love is more than just an emotion. It is a discipline with lots of decisions along the way that are learned and refined over time.  A portion of love (emotional) comes much more easily and natural for some than others.  I have seen moms and dads that are just naturally “loving” people. This is seen through their words (compliments and encouragement) and actions (serving, giving of their time, and affection). I have also seen parents try to be loving by doing things for their children so that their children will not feel sad, hurt, upset or in any way feel bad. They do this with great intentions. Some other parents are more task-focused and seem to love through providing order and security in the child’s surroundings rather than connection. 

It is important to understand that love does not mean hovering or “helicoptering”.  Helicopter parenting involves rescuing kids whenever there is any type of adversity. There have been several parents over the years that I have seen turn on teachers because their kids were getting bad grades. This is not love, this is crippling!  These kids don’t get to learn how to resolve problems or work harder when things get tough. Instead, they are being rescued in the guise of love. In a study by Kathleen Haughney out of Florida State University, they found that helicopter parents actually prevent kids from growing up and learning how to handle life. They essentially stunt their development, without the intention to do so.  

Being loving is about so much more than just buffering and protecting. For some, being an emotionally connected person comes very easily, but the other side of love, which involves limits, correction, and being able to say necessary “no’s”, may not come as easily for some.   You may have been hurt by someone or may have missed out on being loved and connected growing up. Either way, you now have the opportunity to turn the tables by learning how to love. We all have the capacity to be loving parents. The main ingredient here is a solid understanding of God’s love and a close relationship with God.  Beyond that, it is up to you. First, are you naturally a very task-focused person?  Because if you are, there is a good chance that you see tasks before you see people, including your kids. Kids are like lego pieces waiting to connect wherever they can. They are forgiving and adaptable. 

To work on love, you can begin by working on these five practical and easy to implement exercises:

  • Challenge yourself to play, laugh, and smile with your kids for at least 10 minutes each day (most of us can use more laughter, play and smiles in our days). For two weeks, take time to reflect on what this felt like to you and carefully notice the great effects this has on your kids and your relationship. After about a month, try to take it up to the ninja level of 20 minutes a day. I dare you!  Your kids will love it.  We don’t have to laugh, but God created it to be beneficial to our health and available to us at any time. What a gift!
  • Prioritize your schedule. Make of list of “have to’s” and see where you can put some one on one time with your kids. Surprise or consistent quality time is very much appreciated by kids.  For younger kids, even a five-minute cuddle at the beginning of the day can be something your kids look forward to. Find simple ways in your schedule to connect and show your kids they are valuable to you.
  • Put stop signs or pause buttons around your house, in the car, and/or on your phone. When you stop, practice relational attention. What can you stop and notice about your child? Could you tell him or her how thankful you are that they are your son or daughter?  You can also take this time to genuinely share with them something you’ve noticed that they do well or that you love about them. 
  • Take time to observe and know each child’s uniqueness. You can write them notes to tell them what you see and admire.  Kids love to feel authentically known.  If notes seem daunting, just telling them what you see can feel pretty exciting! You can get a chalk pen that writes on glass and write a note them notes on their mirror. I love to put a circle where I know my child will be looking in the mirror.  Next to the circle, I put arrows and true, authentic things I know about my kids such as “child of God”, “great singer”, beautiful smile”, etc.,  They love this and have started doing the same thing on our mirrors.
  • Write out Philippians 4:8 and put your child in the verse. For example, what is excellent about ______________?  What is trustworthy about _______?  What is pure about _________?  What is honorable __________?  You get the point.  This is a difficult exercise.  You may have to look up the definition of each word to get the full flavor of what they mean.  Once you have this list written out, put it somewhere the kids can see it. 

More Resources on Love

John Trent
Daily Broadcast

Understanding the Two Different Sides of Love

In a discussion based on his book The Two Sides of Love, Dr. John Trent explains the differences between the “hard side” and the “soft side” of love and how they may manifest themselves in your marriage. He offers advice for how you and your spouse can strike a healthy balance between the two sides by developing qualities that you may be lacking.

Read More »

Boundaries in parenting are first defined as parental self-care, to have the necessary margins to nurture, respond to and care for the family. Then providing proper limits to help children learn balance and self-control.

If you are in the area of Boundaries​

Congratulations! This means you are friends with the word “no”. Your goal is not your children’s happiness, but rather their growth. You are willing to go through the difficulty of training your kids to respect boundaries and limits This takes consistency and intentionality. Two traits that are crucial for the long-term success of boundaries are love and respect. Keep in mind that if you are low on either or both of these traits it could lead to resentment, rebellion, and big-time confrontation in your home.

If you scored low on either of those, make sure you work really hard on those before you get too excited about throwing down and enforcing more boundaries!

If you’re providing your family with the wonderful trifecta of love, respect, and boundaries, you are a gem to your family! Even if there is conflict, your kids will gain security in your home. They will learn to love, respect, admire, and thank you someday. You are truly providing a great initial foundation for your kids to learn about what it means to be an adult.

We were created to thrive by obeying God, living with His truth in our hearts and minds and by listening to Him to gain much needed wisdom.  Psalm 119 provides a wonderful example of the benefits to loving God’s commandments.

There are many things in life that need boundaries – our time, our relationships, technology, media, our selfishness, our conversations, and everything around us – including our homes, communities, countries, world and universe. Boundaries are everywhere.

Technology use among children continues to rise and the average age of people using technology daily continues to skew younger. Technology requires boundaries and limits. You are more likely to place the necessary boundaries that will help your children use technology safely and with balance. This can take a lot of energy and effort on your part as a parent, but since you’re good at this, your family needs your skills.

Since there are many demands on time, you’re ability to say “no” is important to your sanity and to your family’s sanity. There are so many good things to get involved with; you help your family sift toward the “great” things to get involved in.

You also, most likely, help your family set clear limits on what media is consumed. This is important because of the impact of media on our children’s minds and souls. Media influences belief systems, beliefs influence thoughts, thoughts and emotions influence one another resulting in actions. In other words, media has the potential of influencing our children’s beliefs and actions. There may be necessary conflict in this area and just realize that you are investing your energy and time on a very important area of your children’s life. Plugged In helps sift through the barrage of media in our culture today to provide you with the best information possible as you develop boundaries in media for your home.

‘Since you scored high in boundaries, you are able to help your family by…

  • Modeling consistency of rules, limits, boundaries, and expectations. Your children learn that your “no” is “no” and your “yes” is “yes”. This helps decrease manipulation in your children. They learn to respect boundaries that are placed. It is interesting to watch coaches and players argue with referees. I have never seen a ref change a call because a coach or player complained about a call and thought it was the wrong call. The call is the call and you move on. You help children not get stuck on the call.
  • Teaching your kids responsibility. You can teach them that the words “no” and “yes” help set important boundaries in life. They learn how to tell if they have energy, time and resources to do certain things. They will also gain trust and respect from others by being able to say “no” when they need to. A lot is learned about people by what they say “yes” to. You can help your children see what they tend to say, “yes” to.
  • Modeling and teaching respect for rules, limits and boundaries. This will help your children more effectively navigate friendships, dating, marriage, work, parenting, and society.
  • Teaching what is right and wrong. Don’t be afraid to have conversations as to the reasoning for the boundary. This helps define the purpose of the boundary. It helps your children feel heard as they try to adjust to the boundary that they may not like or want.
  • Guarding your family time. This is important. It is very easy to get busy and scattered. Family time is essential. I don’t need to give you the statistics to back this one up. Your family needs quantity and quality time and your strength in boundaries helps your family guard this precious commodity.

Boundaries help things work well, even if our emotions don’t always like them. You know, it’s a good thing that emotions don’t always run society because it would be constant chaos, fluctuation, and conflict. Wait! That sounds too familiar. You are thankfully able to let emotions do what they need to do while you set necessary boundaries with wisdom, love and respect. Your family and society will thank you. 

How to in the area of Boundaries​

Scoring low on boundaries could mean that you are exhausted, disorganized, a conflict avoider, and/or you may have a more playful and aloof personality. There may be various other reasons why you scored low, the fact is your family and society need your growth in this area.

Boundaries take a lot of energy, time, focus, relationship, balance and communication. It is not easy to face conflict and uncomfortable emotions when kids don’t like your boundaries or when people don’t like your “no”.

In a study from the University College London, researchers discovered that we tend to pursue the path of least resistance. We tend to go toward the option that requires the least amount of effort, which reinforces two things: the need for intentionality and the need for focused attention. Intentionality requires planning and energy and helps with setting, defining and reinforcing boundaries. Focus requires disciplined attention and helps with establishing and pursuing goals no matter what.

I’m sure you already know this, but other people’s love and approval are for them to give when and how they want to. Also, other people’s happiness is up to them, including your kids’ happiness. I, like I’m sure most parents have, had at least a momentary lapse into the whirlwind of trying to make my children happy. That is a never ending road that will be exhausting and a losing proposition. We all love approval and love; it’s just how we get them that makes a difference. Boundaries provide freedom when done right. David through his writing of the Psalms shows his love of God’s commandments and rules. He says they keep him safe.

A lack of boundaries on others many times means a lack of boundaries on our selves. Many parents struggle with boundaries on themselves when it comes to technology. I was counseling a father and his son. The father worked in the computer industry and loved video games. We were working on helping his teen son resolve his addiction playing online video games. It was difficult, because the boy’s father was unwilling to let go of video games. It took some time, but his father worked on mustering up enough energy to put limits on himself and on his son. It was transformative to both of them.

Learning to consistently model limits on yourself with technology, food, media, time or anything else where your child may ask why you get to do it and they don’t, will help improve your relationships with your children.  What limits can you place on your phone or computer use? Time watching TV, junk food, work, and video games?

A lack of boundaries can create exhaustion, confusion, frustration, and a loss of respect. Jesus led a life of balance and still faced persecution, tiredness, betrayal, and suffering. He held strong to His boundaries even if people were unhappy. He displayed this well when dealing with the Pharisees and any opposition he faced. He was not concerned about making people happy. He was concerned about their souls and relationship. 

You can work on boundaries by…

  • Resting enough to have energy for limits. What is the purpose of sleep? To prepare our brains for the next day. Our brains are hard at work while we sleep. There is physical repair and mental repair happening in our bodies while we sleep. Make sure you make time to stop and reenergize, so you will have enough energy to set limits on yourself and your children. Limit setting takes a lot of mental and physical energy.
  • Learning to be friendly with the word “no”. “No” can provide breathing room and respect. It is ok to say “no” to others when you need to. It doesn’t make you a bad person, friend, spouse or parent. When you say “yes” to something, you are saying “no” to something or someone else. When I say “yes” to another extra task at work, being out with friends, or another project around the house, I am saying “no” to time with my wife, kids or myself for recharge. It is important for me to keep my focus on balance as I engage as a employee, therapist, friend, father, son, and servant of Christ.
  • Establishing rules and consistently reinforcing them. Our homes have fences around them that show the boundaries of our land. They don’t move depending on how people feel. The boundaries are there and people learn to respect them. In a study out of Penn State, researchers discovered that it is important to teach children about good moral decision-making online at an early age (intentionality) so that they are able to more easily understand and follow the limits on technology. They are also more willing and skilled at placing limits on themselves. 
  • Learning from other people you respect who are able to provide boundaries with love and respect. Watch what people with boundaries tend to do. They fill their emotional tank in order to most effectively and genuinely engage with others. Learn from these people and don’t be afraid to take notes. Pay attention to what disciplines and/or skills you are missing to actually follow through on boundaries.
  • Establishing what is most valuable to you. What is it that you make time for? What do you spend your money on? Where do you give most of your energy? Rearrange your priorities to make what you want to be valuable in your life truly valuable.

Your family will love the results of you working on this trait. It will have long lasting impacts on you and your family. In fact, it will increase your level of self-confidence as a parent and will increase the level of trust from your spouse and children.  

More Resources on Boundaries

Grace and forgiveness are gifts of freedom that helps us experience God's deep love. They encourage healthy interactions within the family.

If you are in the area of Grace & Forgiveness​

This is incredible for your family. It means they have a peacemaker in leadership providing a great example of God’s ministry of reconciliation. You are the glue for your family, so that they can learn how to handle differences, disagreements, imperfections, and possible betrayals.

You bring God’s love directly into the home. Grace and forgiveness is an antidote to anger, frustration, and disappointment. It allows you to be free enough to be present in the here-and-now moments.

You bring patience and compassion that requires self-control and true maturity. You bring calmness to stress, and you know firsthand that neither you nor anyone besides Jesus is perfect. Jesus provided us with an amazing and powerful example when He yelled out while in excruciating pain and humiliation, “forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

Grace and forgiveness come with a cost. The good news is that you are rich enough in God’s love to freely give it. Your family will benefit from the relational benefits this brings to your family on a daily basis. You help your children know that they can make mistakes, find grace and continue growing while they seek their identity in Christ. Here are five ways you can help your family through grace and forgiveness:

  • Teach your family ways to learn from mistakes. You can help them see mistakes as opportunities. Opportunities to grow. My 11 year-old daughter was having a hyper moment and accidentally spilled frozen peas all over the floor. We all froze for a moment (no pun intended) , we looked at her, and she stood paralyzed waiting to see what was going to happen next. We could tell she felt bad.  I went to grab the bag from her to see where the opening was on the bag to make sure the rest of the bag didn’t spill out. My wife said, “the dogs love peas and are going to be very happy.” My daughter smiled and watched as the dogs ate every single green pea on the floor.
  • Allow failure to be part of reality and provide grace to energize your family. Grace gives the message that we are all always learning, including you and your spouse as you try to parent. Your kids get the message that it is ok to mess up as you learn. It leaves room for mistakes and attempts.
  • Model and teach how to let things go. It is easy to hang on to wrongs done. It takes a strong person to say they are sorry and an even stronger person to forgive the “sorry”. Pause and discuss times when you let things go, even when a waiter or waitress makes a mistake. Your kids are watching. Teach them what is worth standing for and what is best letting go.
  • Your kids learn they can bring up difficult topics, without you losing your mind. They know that they can talk to you and that you will listen through a lens of grace as your first step. This allows for sincerity and communication to grow in your home.
  • Teach how to effectively manage emotions. You show that anger and frustration don’t have to win. You see emotions as signals rather than drivers. You are able to sift through your feelings and look at the best way to respond instead of react.

How to in the area of Grace & Forgiveness​

I’m excited that you get to work on such a transformative trait! This process can change the lenses of how you see people and the world around you.  As you reflect on your past wounds, I wonder what life would be like for you if you allowed yourself to put that heavy baggage aside for a while?

Bob, a middle aged man, came to see me for counseling. He told me he hated his dad and couldn’t forgive what his dad had done. He had come to see me because he frequently yelled at his family, slammed doors at home, screamed at drivers, was short with co-workers, and was struggling to maintain his second marriage. Bob couldn’t lie to rest memories of his father’s absence, screaming, yelling, hitting, and eventual abandonment of his home. He was a wounded man and was readily wounding others around him. Bob said he feared becoming his dad even though that is exactly what was happening.

In parenting, this trait is essential for the love of God to shine into your kids’ lives. It is the glue for your family to be able to repair when imperfections inevitably run into each other.  Research published in the Frontier of Human Neuroscience journal, forgiveness helps our brain develop empathy and to be able to see the positive in the negative. The researchers found that forgiveness helps train the brain to make sense of what the other person may be thinking and provided the ability to create a more rational perspective on what the other person was doing. So, in the context of parenting, developing this trait will help you understand that what your kids are doing is not personal to you. They have imperfections and their brains are still learning and developing. They need patient and understanding guidance and forgiveness.

It is also a way to break free from things in our past, so that we can be in the present. Grace and forgiveness help us be in the “now” moments with emotional security, balance, and control to be able to respond. The following are some ways you can begin working on grace and forgiveness in your life:

  • Make a list of things you have difficulty forgiving. You can put this list in your wallet, purse, Bible, or any other place you will look. Why do you have difficulty forgiving these? What is your gain by holding on to these or not forgiving these? What is the gain if you do forgive?
  • Make a list of things you need to and are willing let go of to be free to deal with present things. Try to hold a cup with water for 5 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes and 10 minutes. What did you notice? Did you notice that the longer you hold the glass, the heavier it gets even though it is the same weight? The same concept applies to things that have been done to us by our parents, friends, enemies, children, neighbors, co-workers, bosses, etc. You will be free emotionally to carry current things if you let go of things from the past, which could include things from yesterday and today. Picture yourself letting go of each one one-by-one as if you are playing Tetris with transgressions or frustrations. What makes you get stuck on the “debt” of what has been done? What does it feel like to make the list shrink? 
  • Look at imperfections as opportunities. Everyone has these and they are constantly running into each other all day long. Imperfections are opportunities for love, learning, and growth. They for sure help develop “ninja skills” in patience and patience is a foundational characteristic of love.
  • Ask the question, “Is there another way to look at this?” Forgiveness allows you to train your brain to see the same thing from multiple angles. For example, if a dad’s child says, “I hate you”, most likely it means that he hates the fact that he can’t do or have what he wants. It is not personal. He is still learning how to handle his emotions. This is a perfect opportunity, once the emotions are calmed down, to calmly rephrase what your child is saying to help teach your child how to more effectively communicate his frustrations respectfully. You could say, “It sounds like you wish the rule were different” or “it sounds like you wish you could get that toy”. “You are frustrated and a respectful way to say this is…I wish I could have that toy and I’m very frustrated and angry that you won’t get it for me.” “This makes a lot more sense to me than – I hate you.” “I really want to understand what you’re saying.”  A lot of kids are learning how to manage their impulse control and are unable to see mental stop signs for themselves. Try to see these moments as opportunities to teach about these stop signs. 
  • Give yourself permission to rebuild trust. Trust is on a continuum and is not an “all or nothing” thing. Permission to rebuild trust requires not only time, but forgiveness for the transgression(s). As parents, we get to teach our kids how to rebuild trust when some of the trust is lost.
  • Catch a glimpse of the bigger picture – God has freely forgiven us, and we can forgive others. In reality, we have all received a lot of forgiveness from others, why do we tend to hold on to things that require our forgiveness? Interestingly, our brain gets very focused on negatives and only briefly dwells on the positives. Challenge yourself to hang a little longer on the positives with relationship in mind. You’re helping create an adult. What an amazing opportunity! If you are frustrated about not leaving on time, because your spouse or children put you behind, keep in mind the bigger picture of getting to go on a vacation. Find a place to calm your emotions, so that you can see far enough to find grace. This will help the vacation start of the best it can even though it’s not the way you expected.

Grace and Forgiveness will help you develop humility and foster love in your home. It is worth the hard work!

More Resources on Grace & Forgiveness

Illustrated icon of a word bubble with 'Thank you' in it
The word 'Gratitude'

An attitude that leads to thankfulness and appreciation. A gift of a healthy and positive perspective.

If you are in the area of Gratitude

Thankful people are kind people. Since you scored high on the trait of gratitude, you see the true value of relationship and tend to value what is around you. Your perspective is essential for your family. You are able to see the “bright” side of things. Gratitude is the antidote to entitlement and the secret sauce for positivity.

You are more likely to bring peacefulness wherever you go. Gratitude is a sign of Christian maturity and requires a perspective focused on freedom. Positivity and calmness follow you. What a great gift you bring to those around you through your strength in gratitude. Your kids most likely feel they are valuable to you. They know that you are thankful to have them as your children, if they are full of imperfections. I love, every once in a while, telling my son and daughter, “I am thankful to have you as my son/daughter!” This usually gets a response from them in which they say they are thankful to have me as their dad. This is a great exercise to help us stop and say this to each other. I assume that they don’t know this. I want them to always remember that I’m thankful for them, even when I’m busy, stressed, tired, or cranky.

Some of the kindest and happiest people I’ve ever met have this key ingredient in their lives. I recall in college being hired by an elderly woman from our church to do some landscaping for her. She was kind, genuine, and loving. While I worked on her yard, she would come out and check on me to make sure I was doing ok. She would invite me to have lunch with her. One day, she made us tasty tuna sandwiches. I sat with her at her kitchen table, dirty and smelly. She shared memories about many things and talked about things and people she was thankful for. She loved talking about how God was good to her. She showed a lot of peacefulness in her life.

Neuroscientists have discovered that the brain is changed by gratitude. Prathik Kini led a group of researchers from Indiana University to look at the effects of gratitude on the brain. They found that the more a person practices gratitude, the more their brain naturally responds with gratitude. It’s almost like working out. The areas of the brain that help with being grateful grow and develop long lasting connections. The brain develops resiliency in response to disappointment, adversity, and loss. This is brain growth that can happen at any time in life.

You can help your family become more grateful or just benefit from your strength in gratitude by…

  • Modeling how you stop and notice what you’re thankful for. You can show them how to stop and “smell the roses”. Help your kids notice the little things and feel the great benefits of truly being and feeling thankful. Help them see God’s provision on a day-to-day basis.  
  • Practicing saying something you’re thankful for each day. You can do this at the dinner table, while driving, or walking. It is easiest to just incorporate it into the day. You can also model talking to God all day long about things you are thankful for.
  • Creating a family gratitude journal. Some families do a joint family journal either in a very accessible paper journal or a private family blog that everyone can add to at any time.
  • Helping your family see what you have as a family and what God has provided rather than being hyperfocused on what you don’t have or what others have.
  • Helping your family see the positive side to difficult, disappointing, or frustrating situations. This can get annoying for some, so be careful. Find genuine ways to gain new perspectives that may have been overlooked. For example, if your basement floods and you have insurance, you will most likely be thankful you have insurance and will have it fixed. It will just be inconvenient. There are some people that are able to say, “It’s just stuff.” When they have lost almost everything. They say, “At least we still have our family, lives, and health.” This helps them have a resilient mindset. You can help model this resiliency that can help your children tremendously as they become adults.

Paul takes gratitude to a ninja-like level. He says in Romans 5:3-5 (ESV) that, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Gratitude is not just for Thanksgiving. It is for all year round and in everything, including our sufferings. Gratitude in you will help your family find peacefulness and help them truly see what has been done for them, including the sacrifice of Jesus’s death on the cross for their sins.  

How to in the area of Gratitude

Gratitude is the foundation to so many things. If you scored low on this, you have been missing out on a lot. It may be that you are a very task focused let’s-get-life-by-the-throat kind of person or someone that has not grown up with an example of pausing and truly noticing what you have.

Pausing and noticing the value of the little things gives you the push toward kindness. Interestingly, kindness synergistically also increases gratitude.

In two studies done by Antonio Damasio from the Neuroimaging Institute at USC and neurology and psychology professor at USC – Dornsife College, he found that true gratitude inspires a “pay it forward” attitude. In other words, when someone does something for you, gratitude causes you to want to do the same for someone else. This can be transformative to a culture.

My wife and I took our two kids and a niece to go skiing on a beautiful spring break day. We did not leave as early as I had wanted to leave. We stopped at a great ski rental shop. In fact, my son said, “that was the best ski rental shop we have ever visited!”  The owner was kind, friendly, and grateful for life. He was living with enough emotional freedom to see others, which helped us feel cared about and important.  

We arrived at the ski resort about an hour and a half later than what I had hoped. It was still a beautiful day, and I was reminded of the privilege to get to so skiing.  I have to admit that I was a little nervous that I would not get as much time with my family, because I was going to teach my niece how to ski. She had never skied before. I needed to get my focus in the right place.

As I approached the ticket window, a man asked, “Are you going to buy ski passes?” I looked at him with a little confusion since I was walking toward the ticket window.  Usually people don’t approach the ticket window for other things. I said, “yes”. He said, “Don’t buy any.” I looked at him a little puzzled and said, “Well, we want to go skiing.” He started to dig through his bag and said, “I have a pass I can give you.” I was suddenly intrigued and said, “What do you mean?”  He ended up giving us five passes and said with a big smile, “Merry Christmas, pass it forward!” I was standing there in disbelief! That saved us a lot of money.  He was a man that understood the concept of pass it forward. He had been given five passes with his season pass and wanted to give them away. What a gift.

In Scripture, God repeatedly reminds us through Paul to be thankful. He mentions it as an anchor to the new self. It helps the other Christian virtues work and shine. You family will love that you’re working on gratitude, because it naturally makes you a kinder person. It will also help you become a “noticer” of things and people around you. You’ll also bring an energizing peacefulness to your home.  You can work on gratitude by…

  • Learning to pause and notice things and people that I am thankful for. Stop and verbally say what you’re thankful for. You can start by truly being thankful for air, food, water, shelter, and life. Genuine gratitude requires pressing the “pause” button of life and really feeling gratitude. This is the type of gratitude that researchers have found is great for your health. God designed it that way.
  • Starting a thankfulness journal and share some things you write with your family whenever you can.
  • Telling your kids specific things you’re thankful for in them. For example, telling them you are grateful for their smile, their laughter, their help or words.
  • Trying to shift a perception of a situation from negative to something with hope or positivity. For instance, if your child makes a mistake and breaks a plate, you can focus your attention on the opportunity to show grace and help your child learn responsibility by cleaning up what happened. You are also able to model love through patience.
  • Sometimes ungrateful people are really stressed out people. Stop, breathe, notice, and challenge yourself to say out loud what you’re thankful for. This helps your brain gather up several “wins” throughout the day, while stress tries to pull you side ways.

Gratitude will not only transform you, it will transform your relationships. It will help you find peacefulness and to see God’s fingerprints all over your life and surroundings. You will know He is truly with you wherever you go.

More Resources on Gratitude

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