4 Guidelines for Building Character in Children

I have been a coach for over 20 years. The Major League team I worked for in 2001—the Arizona Diamondbacks—won the World Series that year. At the time, Bob Brenly was the Diamondbacks’ manager, and in one of his first meetings with the players, he wrote the team rules on a napkin. They were simple and all-encompassing. In doing this, he allowed the players to focus on doing their jobs well without feeling micromanaged.

When I became a manager years later, it inspired me to do something similar with my teams. I realized that the four rules I chose for my teams actually apply in all walks of life, so we instituted them as guidelines in our home. When you are building character in children, you want to give them principles to follow that will help them grow into responsible adults who treat others well. Here are 4 guidelines you should establish in your home for building character in children.

1. Respect

Teaching your child respect begins with the way you speak and act around others. Your kids are constantly observing you, because children are looking for examples, and this helps shape their behavior. How do you treat your wife when there is a disagreement in your home?  How do you act when you are running late and stuck in traffic? Respect really boils down to treating others the way you want to be treated.

2. Accountability

Holding yourself accountable is the first step. This means you know the difference between right and wrong, and when you mess up, you are quick to acknowledge it. When you hold someone else accountable, it is important to have built a relationship with that person first. When you trust another person, you hold his or her opinion in high regard. Blowing people up when they make a mistake is not holding them accountable. Pulling them aside and pointing out something you see in their behavior is. When you discipline your kids, you are holding them accountable, so do it in a way that teaches them.

3. Timeliness

We all get 24 hours in a day, but sometimes it feels like I need 30 to get everything done. Time is very valuable, so show your child that being on time is important by showing up early to as many things as possible. When you run late for an appointment with others, you are basically telling them you don’t value their time. Talk to your kid about how things don’t always go as planned, so it’s important to leave early just in case.

4. Excellence

When you set out to do something, you may as well do it to the best of your ability. We only get one shot to live this life, so make the most of it. Do everything with excellence—yes, even the small stuff. Your kids are watching, so when they see you paying attention to detail and doing your best, they take note. Be a great example to your kids and watch how they grow without even saying a word to them.

These four guidelines also make the acronym “R.A.T.E.” At the end of the day, you can RATE yourself on how you think your interactions went with others and ways you can improve the next day. This self-reflection builds a daily habit of always trying to be your best in everything you do.

Sound off: What are some other ways you can establish character in your kids?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are some good ways we can show respect to others?”