Strong character can help your teen succeed.

How to Build Character in Teens

by Kathryn Hatter

Character involves thoughts, feelings and behaviors that result from ingrained principles and moral judgments, according to CITRS, a nonprofit education company focused on improving academic performance, virtuous behavior and citizenship in schools and other organizations. Because character plays a defining role in choices and overall performance, it's essential for teenagers to understand and develop positive character traits. You can help your teen build strong character, which can enable her to successfully navigate a variety of situations.

1 Define character for your adolescent as a basis for character development. In simple terms, you can explain, "To demonstrate character, you should treat others in the way that you want them to treat you, as well as be honest, doing what you know in your heart is the right thing to do."

2 Sell your teen on character – it’s one thing to define it, but another to get your teen to accept its importance. You might say, "Developing strong character gives you self-respect and helps you earn respect from the people around you. People with good character generally have positive relationships and experience success personally and professionally." You can also equate strong character with personal fulfillment and happiness, notes Tom Lickona in his book, "Character Matters."

3 Discuss various character traits in more detail to help your teen understand more fully so she can start building character. Explain that trustworthiness involves being honest and keeping promises. Note that respect involves treating others with consideration and tolerance. Explain that responsibility involves having self-discipline and accountability. Make it clear to your teen that character also involves treating others with kindness, compassion and fairness, as noted by the Josephson Institute, a center for youth ethics.

4 Set an example of strong character for your teen to emulate. Strive to conduct yourself respectfully at all times, treating others the way you want them to treat you. By setting this example for your teen day after day, she will learn from your conduct.

5 Encourage your teen to demonstrate character in his daily life to help him be happy and successful. Watch your adolescent as he goes about his daily activities. When you see positive examples of character, provide feedback to let him know that he’s on the right track, suggests the Parenting.org website. For example, if you see your teen let someone go ahead of him in line or go out of his way to help someone, make a comment to let him know that you noticed his efforts. Praising positive behaviors focuses attention on the behavior you want. While it’s tempting to criticize negative behavior, this might just call attention to negative behavior without minimizing it. Criticism can also anger your teen, which might result in defiant behavior, something else you don't want.

About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.

Photo Credits

  • Jack Hollingsworth/Digital Vision/Getty Images