Grandma Was On to Something

Grandma Was On To Something

Building character, you don’t hear many people talk about this these days, it sounds like something my grandmother would have said. As a parent, building character in your child is one of your primary challenges and responsibilities. What exactly does that mean? What is character?

 Oxford dictionary defines character as; The mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual 

 We may think of character qualities like; honesty, integrity, kindness, humility, compassion, respect, teamwork and perseverance. This is just a few and the ones that are important to you may be different and they will reflect your values and your own character. So how do we teach these character traits to our children. 

 Your parents may have told you a story of how they took something from the convenience store and grandma found out and made them return it to the store owner and apologize. This is one way to show your child the importance of honesty.

 I would say that the most important teaching tool is through example. Children are watching you and learning from how you act. Are you complaining or having a positive attitude? Do you cut corners or do a thorough job? Do they see you keeping your word or making excuses? Do you push through hard times or give up? When they see you behave in a way that is consistent with how you are telling them to behave then they are more likely to listen. 

 Another way of encouraging character building is by praising them when you see them act in ways consistent with what you are teaching. We often praise for a particular outcome but the outcome is not always the important thing. How did the child get to that outcome? When your children act in ways that exemplify one of these character traits then praise them for it and be specific.  If you see them telling the truth even though they may get punished, praise them. If they worked really hard  their team didn’t win, still praise them. If you see them being kind or fair or positive in a challenging moment, show them that you see that and that you are proud. This will put the focus on the behavior and not the outcome.

 Children will also start looking for character qualities in others. Use “teachable moments”. As you watch TV or movies you can use the opportunity to discuss these qualities or lack of them in the characters on the screen. Children’s questions and comments about what they are seeing offer parents important insights into their child’s thoughts, beliefs and concerns. Also when you are out and you are interacting with others there are many situations that can be used to teach these valuable lessons about responsibility, empathy, kindness and compassion.

 Don’t ignore this very important aspect of parenting. It takes work but the person your child becomes will more likely be happier in themselves and someone the rest of us can admire and enjoy.

Written by Lisa Strong


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