As parents, one of the greatest privileges we have is the opportunity to shape our children into the people we hope they’ll become.
Recently on my podcast, I had an enlightening discussion about the core virtues I aim to impart to my two sons as they journey through childhood into adulthood. I want to share some of my reflections here in hopes that they may spark your own thinking about what truly matters most in life.
Thinking About Thinking
The impetus for this topic came as I reflected on my now-20-year journey of “thinking about my thinking.” I’ve found that understanding my core values and priorities unlocks the potential for true fulfillment and freedom in life. As a father, I feel an immense responsibility to pass this wisdom to my boys so they can build lives of purpose, empowerment, and joy.
After careful consideration, I landed on six essential virtues that I hope will take root in my sons’ hearts and minds.
6 Virtues I Hope to Instill in My Children
1. Kindness: The Simplest Yet Most Important Virtue
Of all the virtues, kindness is paramount in my mind. Being genuinely kind to both oneself and others is the bedrock of living a rich and meaningful human existence. I want my sons to move through life with an open heart, meeting each person with compassion, graciousness, and encouragement.
However, it’s just as important that they show this kindness to themselves. Many people pour kindness outward, yet speak to themselves with ruthless criticism. I hope to model self-acceptance and self-kindness for my boys so they grasp the importance of gentleness starting from within.
2. Humility: Valuing Truth Over Being Right
Humility means checking your ego and listening earnestly, rather than barreling ahead convinced of your correctness. It’s an attitude of openness to truth over the need to be “right” or “the expert.”
When seeking truth becomes your North Star, an underpinning of humility necessarily develops. You acknowledge that you don’t know everything, you don’t have all the answers, and your opinions aren’t incontrovertible. It’s the opposite of beating the drum of your own viewpoint louder than everyone else just so you can “win.”
In a world full of clamoring opinions, I want my sons to lead not with ego but with humility.
3. Patience: The Art of Waiting
We live in an age of immediacy, where instant gratification is the norm. While technology offers many conveniences, it can also erode patience — a virtue my sons admittedly need to build.
I remind them often that anything truly worthwhile takes time and incremental progress. Mastery arrives only after a long, humble apprenticeship. Life — and joy in life — is about the journey far more than the destination. It’s about who you become along the way.
4. The 51:49 Principle: Giving More Than You Take
The 51:49 principle represents the idea that in relationships, we should strive to give more than we take. This isn’t about martyrdom or self-neglect; it’s about being the person who gives a little more. Make a habit of offering your gifts freely to bring more light to the people around you.
When we give without expectation, it makes us useful, helpful, and valued. By being givers, I believe my sons will attract other givers and cultivate communities where everyone is uplifted.
5. Adaptability: Embracing Change
The only constant in life is change. Given the rapid pace of change today, I see adaptability as an essential virtue for my sons to embrace.
In the past, a person could perhaps learn one skill, bank a 50-year career on it, and then teach it to their children. A youngster today may have to reinvent themselves a dozen times or more as the job landscape evolves.
Furthermore, human relationships are changing as technology transforms how we connect. It’s the unintended consequence of a hyper-connected world.
As a general rule, human beings don’t like change. We resist it. But adaptability is a muscle that can be strengthened through practice. It reduces the suffering of resistance and allows us to pivot gracefully to thrive through change.
6. Accountability: Owning Your Future
Finally, I hope above all to instill in my sons a deep sense of personal accountability for their lives and futures. If your future is beholden to a system, process, or person, then your freedom, happiness, and joy are also beholden to that system, process, or person. Conversely, when you relieve the world of responsibility for your fate, you unlock immense freedom and power.
Making the conscious choice to take complete ownership of your reality — without placing blame or expectation on others — is enormously liberating. It breeds resourcefulness, creativity, and self-reliance. You become the master of your destiny, forging your path each day through purposeful decisions and action.
I hope both my boys will build a life where they relieve the universe of the burden for their futures by taking full responsibility for themselves. Of course, they’ll stumble on the journey; we all do. But they can pick themselves back up, in the process learning how to take responsibility for missteps, when to step forward and when to back away, and how to carry on in pursuit of their highest values.
That’s the essence of true accountability.
The Virtues That Guide Your Family
In reflecting on these six virtues, I realized they align closely with the core values that guide my medical practice. Living and leading with kindness, humility, patience, generosity, adaptability, and accountability fosters positive relationships and fulfillment both at home and at work.
I hope this exercise of distilling my deepest values sparks your own thinking about what matters most in your life and family. What virtues do you hope to impart to your children or loved ones? What principles do you aim to live by and model through your actions each day? By identifying and crystalizing these guideposts, you can orient your life’s journey toward what is most meaningful.
Though we all stumble, our true north remains fixed when we define our deepest priorities. I hope that by instilling these six virtues in my boys, they will have an inner compass to navigate life’s complexities with wisdom, resilience, and purpose.
May we all move forward with intention today, taking one more step toward living out the values at the heart of who we are.
Dr. Aaron Wenzel is a concierge physician specializing in the care of fast-moving entrepreneurs, executives, and public figures in the Nashville, TN area. Dr. Wenzel’s diverse life experience and extensive training in family medicine, emergency care, nutrition, and hormone replacement therapies give him the unique platform to provide unmatched care for his patients.