The word “character” has a lot of meanings. To some, it means the traits that make you who you are; to others, it’s what makes your personality; and for many people, it’s what distinguishes you from everyone else in society.
The question is: As parents, how do we help build strong character in our children?
A strong character helps to ensure your child grows up to work hard, care for others and stand by their word.
First think about what types of character traits are important to you as a person. Some examples include
- Inspiration to others
- Admits when they are wrong
Of course, these are just a few. There are tons of traits that can contribute to good character.
Here are some of the most proven techniques a parent can use to help ensure their child has a strong character.
Give Verbal Encouragement
When you offer your child specific feedback on a character trait you’d like him to develop, you’re giving him some subtle instructions on how to act.
If you value friendship and being a good friend, you could offer feedback when talking to your child about their friends.
For example, you can offer verbal feedback like this, “You are such a good friend to John, because you shared your snacks with him.”
This lets your child know that their efforts to be polite and thoughtful toward their friend was noticed and appreciated.
This will help reinforce that positive behavior.
If you’re wanting to encourage their patience, you can find opportunities where they are patient. Use comments such as “I’m so proud of you! You really kept your cool when your little brother took your toys. You were patient and understanding.”
When you are trying to encourage honesty, you can something like “Thank you for being honest about not brushing your hair. Let’s go brush it now.”
Make Volunteering the Norm
One way to build character is for parents to have their children volunteer. Even the youngest children can participate in volunteering.
By volunteering, your child may learn new skills, grow in independence, and gain self-confidence.
For instance, one child volunteered at a hospital by handing out books to others which helped him become more outgoing and feel needed.
Some volunteering ideas good to do with your children include:
- Paint and decorate the outside of the church in your community to beautify it
- Making cookies for a nursing home
- Reading books to younger children at the library
- Cleaning up local public places such as parks or the beach
Your child watches everything you do. When you help out others when they are around, you are demonstrating the importance of helping others.
Giving a separate consequence for lying
One major struggle most parents have is how to encourage truthful behavior and nix out the lying.
A powerful technique that helps squash lying behaviors is to to give your child a separate consequence specifically.
This means at times, you’ll be providing 2 separate consequences: One for the act of lying and one for the unacceptable behavior itself.
Am example would be; Your child forgot to do his homework. He tells you he did. A few hours later you figure out the homework was never done.
Now you hand out two consequences. One for telling the lie and the other, for not doing his homework.
This technique helps discourage lying and encourages honesty, since in itself its a separate act all together and not misinterpreted by the child as part of another act, like not getting his homework done.
You can make simple statements to help the child understand full with statements like “If you had told the truth about your homework, you would have only gotten grounded for the evening. Since you didn’t tell the truth, you’ll be grounded tomorrow as well.”
Keep an Open Dialogue About Important Traits
While doing any daily activity, you can find ways to talk about important traits that are used daily.
For example, you can talk about patience by talking about how we must all occasionally wait in lines. This one works well while waiting in the check out line at the grocery store.
Explain that it’s part of the rhythms of life, and things we must accept to be happy and content in life.
Model the Character Traits that Matter to You
The best way to help your child build a good character, is to demonstrate positive traits in the company of others.
Children are little mimics. If they are portraying bad behavior, it’s often because it’s something they’ve seen others do.
By being their best model, they’ll naturally build the character traits that you demonstrate most.
In everything you do, make sure you are being the person you want your child to be.
Assign Tasks Regularly to Each Child
You can reinforce self-reliance by giving children tasks to complete by themselves.
Once they’ve finished the job, compliment them on what a good job they did. Even if they job wasn’t done perfectly, they are still learning and practicing.
The important part here is to reinforce the effort. Giving a quick hug and a pat on the back along with the positive feedback is a huge reinforcer for children,
“Thank you so much vacuuming the Livingroom. You really helped me out. I appreciate your working so hard.”
Each time you practice these methods, you’re helping instill a sense of ethics and morality in your children. This will help them make good choices in life now, and later on.
As the parent, you are your child’s biggest role model. You have the power to help build good character. You and your child will enjoy these values for the rest of your lives.