Building character in children and youth – A bouncing and stretching article

One of seven easy ways to build resilience in kids and help them learn to bounce back and stretch their limits when setbacks happen.

What makes up character is determined by individual families and parents, however, there are qualities that we want all children to have such as the ability to determine right from wrong. Character is one of the 7 C’s of resilience. Parents need to take an active role in helping their child develop character, according to Michigan State University Extension. They can do this by providing feedback, direction and being positive role models for their children. Children learn character by observing adults around them. How adults interact with others both in and outside the home are crucial lessons in your child’s character development.

Dr. Kenneth Ginsberg lists 15 categories that can help contribute to conversations about actively building character in your child. This article will explore the first seven categories.

Notice acts of kindness: We need to not only recognize accomplishments of your children, but also when they are kind, caring, generous and thoughtful towards others.

Notice acts of kindness and decent behavior in others: Talk about good things that people do instead of focusing on only the negative stories that can be highlighted in the media.

Treat each other well: Children watch how adults treat each other in good times and in bad times. Learn to disagree agreeably and solve problems showing children positive and productive ways to resolve conflicts.

Treat strangers well: By demonstrating qualities like compassion and kindness to strangers, children will learn those qualities by your example and the examples of other adults.

Reinforce the importance of including all children: Encourage your child to have many different friends and peers including those that are different from them.

Promote responsibility: Encourage children to accept responsibilities for their behaviors (this concept will be covered more in depth in another article).

Don’t spoil your children: Children who get everything they want on their terms turn out to be adults who expect to get everything they want on their own terms.

For a deeper look at helping build character in children and youth check out Building Resilience in Children and Teens by Dr. Kenneth Ginsberg. For more information and resources about developing resiliency in children and youth, visit Fostering Resilience, the Search Institute and the Devereux Center for Resilient Children. For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the MSU Extension website. This is the fifth article in a series: Bouncing and Stretching, Building Competence in Children and Youth, Building Confidence in Children and Youth and Building Connection in Children and Youth.

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