How Can We Help Children Learn about Character? -- Helping Your Child Become a Responsible Citizen
Children learn about strong character when parents and other adults in their daily lives
- set a good example through their own behavior and actions,
- set and communicate high standards and clear expectations,
- coach them on how to be responsible and kind, and
- use literature to reinforce the values of strong character.
Set a Good Example
We are always teaching our children something by our words and our actions. They learn from seeing. They learn from hearing and from overhearing. They learn from us, from each other, from other adults in the community and by themselves.
Children share the values of their parents about the most important things in life. Our priorities and principles and our examples of good behavior can teach our children to take the high road when other roads look tempting.
Remember that children do not learn the values that make up strong character simply by being told about them. They learn by seeing the people around them act on and uphold those values in their daily lives. In our daily lives, we can show our children that we respect others. We can show them our compassion and concern when others are suffering, and our own self-discipline, courage and honesty as we make difficult decisions. How we conduct our everyday activities can show our children that we always try to do our best to serve our families, communities and country.
The way that we view money and material goods also can mold our children's character. If we see our self-worth and the worth of others in terms of cars, homes, furniture, nice clothes and other possessions, our children are likely to develop these attitudes as well. Of course, it is important to meet our children's needs, but it is also important to help them understand the difference between their needs and their wants. The expensive jacket that your child has to have may be OK—if you can afford it.
Finally, we need to be consistent in upholding the values we want our children to respect and not present them with conflicting values. We may tell our children that cheating is wrong, for example, yet brag to a neighbor about avoiding paying taxes. We may say that rudeness to others is unacceptable, yet laugh when we see that behavior on a favorite TV show.
Reprinted with the permission of the U.S. Department of Education.
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