Start early trying to build character in your children. Focus on specific traits and find ways to help your child learn how to exemplify that trait. My son and I began working on character building when he started kindergarten. To date, we have targeted Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, Trustworthiness, and Respect. Begin by explaining to your child what the character means to you and then find activities to teach it, at school and at home. Here’s what we did!
Responsibility could be taught by having your child do assigned chores, teaching him or her to be dependable and taking care of personal things, taking care of other things when using them, and being a positive leader. Use a chore list so your child can see what his responsibilities are within the family. Add mom and dad’s name to the list so he can see that everyone has a responsibility that helps make his house run like a tight ship.
Instill the character trait of Fairness by teaching your child to play by the rules, take turns and share, be open minded, and not take advantage of others. Also warn your children against blaming others carelessly. You can teach sportsmanship at home by allowing each family member a turn at picking the family TV entertainment for the evening. Kids can also take turns with any siblings sitting in the front seat of the car next to mom or dad. Dads can teach the kids how to make mom proud by experiencing new things and always trying new dishes that she prepares for dinner. Teach your kids sportsmanship in the community by showing them that clapping at plays or sports events lets others know that they gave it their best and their talent is appreciated. Kids should also be taught to wait their turn in the grocery line and can truly learn the meaning of sportsmanship by being on a team that is not always their first choice.
Caring can be expressed through compassion & empathy, kindness, being loving and considerate, thankful, and for expressing gratitude for what others do for you. Have your child spend time at a senior center or with kids with terminal illness to show that love and support along with comforting others can make a difference in someone’s life. Talk to your child about giving and receiving compliments. This will help your kids learn to initiate friendships and make others feel good about themselves.
Some examples of Trustworthiness include standing up for beliefs, having the courage to do what’s right, telling the truth, returning what’s borrowed, and being on time. Encourage your child to stand by a friend who may not have the popular view on an issue but one that he agrees with. Express the value of telling the truth and how lying compounds what they might be trying to hide. Get a library card for your child and have him keep track of how many books he checked out and when they are due. Have him keep a calendar as a reminder of when he needs to return what he borrowed. Kids should be taught not to lie, cheat, or steal, to never betray a trust, and not to let their friends hurt themselves. Also talk about the harmful effects of gossip.
Kids can show Respect at school by listening, speaking kindly to everyone, playing fairly, waiting their turn, raising their hand before speaking, saying “please” and “thank you”, sharing, cleaning up after themselves, and keeping unkind thoughts to themselves. Teach your child the Golden Rule, to accept and appreciate differences, to use good manners, and to be considerate of others’ feelings. Kids should know that threatening or hurting others doesn’t deal peacefully with anger, insults, or disagreements.
Having a well-rounded, well-mannered child starts at home with time and lessons learned. But the investment is one of the most precious you’ll ever make!