Have you ever looked at your children and wondered what they were thinking. They seem to do the strangest things and do so without even thinking. Sometimes they even act like two-year-olds (although the other day my daughter said I was acting like a 5-year-old…maybe the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree). You may have even said to yourself, “They are so immature!” I have; and, I have heard many other parents say similar things. In my more rational moments, I respond to that statement with one word…GOOD! Yes, good! Children are supposed to be immature…they are, after all, children. They are learning and growing. Our job, as parents, is to help them become more mature. Character is one important area of maturity that we help them develop. When our children develop positive character they become trustworthy and reliable, which fosters better social relationships. Children with positive character also work hard, learn from mistakes, persevere, and experience more success. How can you help your children develop the character that you can be proud of? Here are a few things you can do to help your children develop a strong and positive character.
· Become actively involved in your children’s character development. If you do not instill positive character traits into your children, someone else will. If you do not model and teach your children the character traits you value, they will learn the character traits modeled through the media, their peers, or from others in the community.
· Notice and acknowledge acts of kindness. When your children do something nice, acknowledge it. When another child or a neighbor does something nice, notice it. Doing so informs your children that you value kindness. While you are at it, model kindness in your interactions with your children and with others you meet throughout the day. Children learn more from our actions than our lectures and instructions. Let them see you put kindness into action toward family, friends, strangers, and even those you “are not particularly fond of.”
· Encourage your children to include others. Teach them to be inclusive rather than exclusive. Reinforce the idea that love reaches out to others, regardless of skin color, clothing choices, interests, beliefs, music preference, grade achievement, or any other marker we use to establish our “groups.” Let your children know they can disagree with someone and still treat them with kindness, respect, and gratitude. Practice this in your own life as well.
· Promote responsibility in your children. Involve them in “running the household” by giving them household chores to complete. Hold them responsible for their decisions. Teach them to finish what they start.
· Learn to give together. Talk about various charitable organizations and the work they do. Pick one or two organizations your children seem interested in and donate your time, energy, or finances to those organizations. You may volunteer for the organization or raise money for them. I especially like the idea of volunteering. Volunteering allows your children to get to know the people they help. It also teaches them that, in spite of circumstances, the people they help are people with strengths and weaknesses just like you and me.
· Watch the TV shows your children like. Listen to the music they like. Play the video games they like to play. Do all three of these activities with them. Use the TV characters, the music lyrics, and the video game concepts as opportunities to learn about their interests and how they think. These “media adventures” provide excellent opportunities to discuss the character of the person on the TV show, the message of the song lyrics, or the goals of the video game. Enter these conversations from a point of curiosity, not lecture, and your children may surprise you with the character they reveal through their mature answers.
I’m sure you have more ideas to help your children develop than the six ideas listed above. How do you help your children develop character? What activities do you and your children share in an effort to develop character? Let us know in the comment section below. Your comments can help us all grow children of strong, positive character.