Fred Astaire said, "The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any." Teaching character is important to you because you want your little one to have the tools necessary to succeed. That means your child should have character, not be a character. You also understand that you must teach by example and deed. You’re going to have to do a better job than Astaire believed most kids are getting.
1. Traits for Success
"True Grit: Can You Teach Your Child Character?" -- a September 24, 2012, program by NBC News -- looked at the qualities of grit and perseverance that help children succeed. Children who learned to work harder instead of giving up when things get difficult were found to achieve academic success. Presenters suggested that parents tell children, "When you work harder to learn something, your brain grows and you get smarter." Other character traits that you can teach to give your child a success boost include leadership, optimism, enthusiasm and responsibility. Reading books that demonstrate these traits can work cooperatively with your determined example.
2. Internal Voice
Your child needs to be governed by an inner voice that encourages self-contol and self-discipline, not external control, according to the National Center for Biblical Parenting. Character traits that contribute to a strong moral inner voice include honesty, loyalty, self-control and perseverance. Activities to help teach these traits could include giving your little one scenarios and letting her choose what she thinks she should do. Say, "Saving your money and doing your chores will let you buy the toy you want," or "Telling the truth and being a good friend ensures that you have good friends who trust you."
3. Outward Focus
If you want your child to treat others as he wants to be treated, traits such as gratitude, compassion, generosity, kindness, patience and joyfulness are worth modeling and cultivating. You can give your child opportunities to learn and exercise these traits by inviting friends over for play dates or letting your child visit friends. Ask your child. “How do you think someone might feel if no one wanted to play with him or if no one said 'Thank you' when he shared his toys?" Your child can think of ways to share, act in a loving and compassionate manner, or express remorse when he doesn't treat someone the way he wants to be treated.
4. Spiritual Traits
Your child might think about traits of love, hope, encouragement, faith and forgiveness as having a connection with your religious faith, although that might not necessarily be true. It is true that these traits were exhibited by Jesus, and he can serve as a role model to your child. Read her stories from the Bible about Jesus and others who modeled these traits, such as Peter's great faith, Ruth's love for Naomi and Barnabas' ability to encourage those around him. You can also find other stories outside the Bible for these traits in William Bennett's "The Book of Virtues." Encourage your child to make up her own stories about people who love others, encourage, and bring hope to those who are discouraged. She can model forgiveness when someone does her wrong or act in a loving manner when someone is lonely.
- NBC News: True Grit, Can You Teach Children Character? 9/24/12
- Psychology Today: Helping Children Succeed
- National Center for Biblical Parenting: Helping Children Develop Self-Discipline
- Character Council of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky: Building Character - 49 Qualities for Success
- ThinkExist.com: Fred Astaire Quotes
- The Book of Virtues; William Bennett
- Character Education Guide to “The Book of Knowledge;” The Children’s Institute
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images