There are some pretty obvious things everyone knows about parenting: don’t drop the baby, better not feed them soft drink instead of milk, make sure to get some vegetables into their diet. But then there are the less obvious things that many parents miss –one of which would have to be blurring the fine line between taking care of your child and spoiling them to oblivion.

As a recent Time article put it, “the best intentions can sometimes create bad parenting habits that are difficult to break”. Looking at my own amazing parents and other couples I know, I see how easy it would be to act in the interests of your child’s immediate comfort, rather than acting in a way that will benefit them in the future. Here are a few tips of building character in your child, instead of turning them into a big softie (who would struggle to deal in the big, sometimes bad, world).

Don’t baby. When they’re a baby, you do everything for them. Why? Because they can’t do it themselves. But as they get older, they can – so let them. Let them look after themselves and form good habits in the little things: making their bed as soon as they get up, cleaning their room, organising their lunch for school, helping with the cleaning. In my family, we started doing our own laundry when we were teenagers too. Things like these may have been annoying to start doing at the time, but now I’m grateful that they’re a part of life and not something that I have to train myself to do at an older age.

Give them responsibility. Sometimes it’s just easier to do things yourself than to trust your kids with them – but this isn’t exactly training them to be responsible and independent. This could mean encouraging them to make dinner one night a week, to get a part-time job instead of you just paying for everything, and to only get extras like mobile phones when they can pay for it themselves.

Less is more. Columnist Abigail Van Buren said that “If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them, and half as much money.” Some parents interpret parenting as giving their kids everything they want – phone, iPad, iPod, laptop, entertainment system…but this is just a clear recipe for disaster. Things will never satisfy, and an excess will only leave you with kids who are insensitive, self-involved and used to getting their way.

Encourage positive lifestyle habits. I have a natural tendency to laziness. Growing up, I was a big fan of sleeping in. My parents were having none of this though – and by not letting me give in to this tendency, it never developed into a habit. Other lifestyle habits to help the kids avoid could be sitting in front of the television, internet or PlayStation all day, eating whenever they feel like it (probably from boredom), and not being aware of what’s going on in each other’s lives. 

I guess with implementing these things what we really struggle with is making someone we love do what they don’t feel like doing in that moment. However, as long as parents focus on the long-term good of their child rather than their short-term gratification, there’s no reason not to bring up children with well-formed characters.

Tamara El-Rahi is an associate editor of MercatorNet. A Journalism graduate from the University of Technology Sydney, she lives in Australia with her husband and two daughters.