Building character in your child- Part 1

Children learn important values by watching and listening to those near them.

Honesty, courage, kindness, cooperation, empathy, sympathy, fairness, respect and generosity are all part of the development of basic human values, also known as character developmentMichigan State University Extension says these values that are learned help society and individuals.  Children learn values by watching and listening to the important role models in their lives.  A great example is when a parent treats their child with respect which results in the child learning to be respectful.  This is something that is learned and takes time to teach and learn.  Keep in mind that just because good values are taught does not always mean that they will be practiced.  Some individuals do not have the self-discipline to practice the values they are taught.  If you are more deliberate and intentional when teaching values, your child will be more likely to learn and live by your values.  Being intentional simply means making an effort to talk about values, explaining what they mean and why they are important.  When a child hears the words, such as respect and cooperation, they will begin to understand the meaning and importance of each. 

According to the Parents as Teachers curriculum from 2002: you will be more successful teaching your child moral values when you:

  • Explain the effects of your child’s behavior on others.
  • Tell your child they are valuable by showing them warmth and responsiveness.
  • Set high but realistic goals for your child and communicate them clearly. 
  • Provide the support your child needs to meet the goals you have set, monitor them to see whether or not they are met, and then provide consequences if they do not.
  • Model the values yourself by treating your child, and others, with respect and consideration.
  • Include your children in family decisions.
  • Be intentional about naming the character trait you want children to develop and point out character traits you value in daily conversations.

Books are also a great way to talk about and teach character development.  For some ideas on different books take a look at the recommended book list from the Character Counts program.

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