Teaching your child character is one of the most important yet most difficult things a parent will ever do. It is also a life-long process that involves activities, daily instruction from parents and other role models and learning from trial and failure.
Activities That Teach Character Traits
Activities that help build character can be a part of each day. Deliberately teaching character qualities you want to see in your kids can help them learn to make good choices on their own.
Teaching children to be kind to others is something that will stay with them throughout their lives. A good place to start is by participating in a canned food drive and donating the items to a local homeless shelter or food pantry. Encourage your child to ask friends, family and neighbors (always go with your child door-to-door and only to homes of those you know for safety reasons) for non-perishable items. Once the items have been collected and donated, see if you can help serve those less fortunate when the items are distributed. This might mean working a meal at the homeless shelter or passing out boxes of food to families when they come to a food pantry to pick them up.
Sign your child up for an event where she will have to get up in front of others. This can be scary for most children, but once stage fright is overcome, the experience can help build self confidence. Events to look for include pageants, spelling bees, debates, theater, dance, competitive sports or music.
Help your child find an activity that is challenging and encourage him to set a goal that he can attain but will have to work at. This could include anything from walking a certain distance to learning to play a particular song on a musical instrument.
If someone has hurt your child's feelings, have her write out reasons why that person might have acted that way. Putting oneself in another person's shoes can lead to understanding and can help your child learn to let the offense go and move forward.
One of the best ways to teach a child character traits is to provide examples of those traits. There are several ways parents can achieve this.
Model the Trait Yourself
If there is a character trait that you want your child to develop, the best way to start is by modeling that trait in your life. If you want your child to be:
- Forgiving - Forgive others that offend you.
- Confident - Try to be confident in your abilities as well as those of your child.
- Encouraging - Speak uplifting words that encourage others.
- Wise - Read regularly and be willing to expand your education, either formally or informally. Stress the importance of education, and back up your words by putting your child's education first.
- Truthfulness - Tell the truth yourself. Think a white lie is okay? It may not harm anyone, but remember that your child is watching to see if you are truthful or not. Sometimes it is better to say nothing at all than to tell a lie.
Give Examples of Positive Behavior
When your child misbehaves, providing examples of how they could behave differently the next time can help him see how to become a better person over time. If your child:
- Steals something - Explain that everyone wants "things" but that a better way to handle the situation would be to ask a parent for the item, save your allowance, earn the money or ask for the item as a gift for a birthday or other occasion.
- Hits or pushes another child - Explain that everyone gets angry, but a better way to handle anger would be with words, hitting a pillow, counting to 10 or other anger control techniques. Your child should understand that hitting is not an appropriate expression of anger. Remember, that cute five-year-old that pushed another child down today will one day be a thirteen year old.
- Tells a Lie - Explain that lying can cause others to lose trust in you. A better way to handle this situation would be to tell the truth. Your child should understand that even though she might get into trouble for the offense, that lying will bring additional consequences and loss of more privileges than simply telling the truth.
Of course, you should still follow your typical method of discipline, such as taking away a privilege, if appropriate.
Sharing stories from your childhood can offer examples to your child of different character traits and how to develop them. Share stories about when you made a mistake and how you changed. This can be a particularly effective method when your child makes a mistake. He will understand that you have been where he is and that you got into trouble for a mistake as well, but that you learned from it and became better for the experience.
For example, if you once took another child's bike without asking permission and lost a friend over the situation, share that story with your child and what you learned from it. What did you do the next time you wanted to borrow something from a friend? How did this work out better than the other situation?
If you can't think of an example from your life, borrow examples from grandparents, aunts and uncles and close family friends. Knowing that others around him are not perfect, but have been able to grow and learn as they've lived can help your child see that he has the ability to develop character throughout his life as well.
List of Character Traits for Kids
Here are a list of some character traits you may want to help your child develop:
- Positive Outlook
As you pay closer attention to the character traits in your child, you'll discover areas of strength and weakness. Praise your child's strengths and help him overcome his weaknesses. Remember that time and experience are both the best teachers your child could have.