Most of us are well aware that our kids are “characters.” But how about developing character in our kids? That’s another story, but it’s an intention well worth the effort.
There’s a principle in education that refers to family – and parents in particular – as “first teachers.” Nothing has the potential to impact children to the extent of what they learn… or don’t learn… at home. The point is, children have the best chance of learning and developing character in the context of life at home.
So how do we accomplish this? It’s not really a chore if we provide a consistent environment where character is part of the fabric. When we – as a family – live values such as integrity, honesty, humility, goodness, fairness, reliability, and trust then we’re already more than halfway there. Here are our 10 ways to instill character in your children:
1. Read together:
Get in the habit of sharing some of the great stories that feature people who do the right thing, like the classic “Ben-Hur”, the Newbery winning “Bridge to Terabithia”, and C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia.” Check out the Book List here.
2. Watch movies as a family:
Some of these stories make great movies. But don’t just pass it off to the kids. Watch it together and make time for conversation.
3. Find reference works on character education and actually teach it:
Take a trip to your Christian bookstore; Google “character education”, ask the guidance counselor at school. There are workbooks available for all ages. Make it a family project and participate yourself.
4. Help your children select their heroes:
Don’t wait for the up to ten hours of daily media barrage to impose role models. We can be a part of the process by exposing our kids to heroes with the character to back up the claim. Be a character filter.
5. Be their hero:
Actually, as a dad, you already are. The opportunity is to live character out loud to the extent that it rubs off.
6. Remember that the family is always “first teacher”:
Always be ahead of the curve because proactive is better than reactive when it comes to developing character. Always be ahead of the curve because proactive is better than reactive when it comes to developing character. Don’t rely on anyone else to teach these lessons for you. You’re the parents, it’s your opportunity!
7. Learn to grab the teachable moment:
Sometimes, life requires commentary. Once in a while, all it takes is ice cream and a chat to elevate an interesting experience into a solid life lesson.
8. Ask kids’ help to point out non-examples:
All dads have to do is ask a few probing questions, and our kids will fill in the rest. “Why do you think (insert famous athlete name here) is still on probation?” typically works better than a parental lecture on his sins.
9. Practice character-building exercises:
It’s naïve to believe that the right lessons will always come along naturally. Make plans to help an elderly neighbor on a regular basis. Help serve food at a local homeless shelter. Plan family meetings where you target specific character lessons and develop strategies together.
10. Make sure the family is rooted in something bigger than itself:
It’s not enough to do or value things because “that’s the way this family does things”. There has to be a higher standard still. So ask yourself this question; “How do I instill character in myself?”
When I say the word “character”, what do you think of?