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Raising Kids With Character: 10 Traits to Build On

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With a holiday break coming up, you may be looking forward to quality family time, but your kid likely has other plans: waking up late, hanging out with friends, and opening those precious presents. Activities like these put kids' character on full display. It's a perfect time for a check-up! No, not a doctor's check-up—a character check-up. Make the holidays about more than toys and tinsel by focusing some energy on building up these valuable traits.

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With a holiday break coming up, you may be looking forward to quality family time, but your kid likely has other plans: waking up late, hanging out with friends, and opening those precious presents. Activities like these put kids' character on full display. It's a perfect time for a character check-up! Make the holidays about more than toys and tinsel by focusing some energy on building up these valuable traits.

Compassion

If you want a kid who can identify and sympathize with others' emotions and needs, lead by example. Model compassion, caring, and kindness every chance you get. Volunteer for those in need at a shelter or soup kitchen, and get your child on board. From small acts like opening doors for others to handing out warm blankets to homeless people, look for opportunities to lend someone a hand. 

Empathy

Since people can't actually walk in another person's shoes, they need to learn empathy, the skill of feeling what others are experiencing. Understanding others' joy and suffering helps us care for them. When you have moment to watch TV or read books with your child, talk about characters' points of views and ask, "What do you think the character is feeling or thinking?" If you see your child doing or saying something hurtful, encourage consideration by asking "How would it make you feel if someone did that to you?"

Tolerance

Understanding and respecting different cultures, beliefs, and points of view begins at a young age. If you're open to these differences, your child will pick up on it. If your child comments on something unusual, like someone dressing "funny," explain that people often wear clothes that reflect their culture or home country. Spend some time during the holidays learning about what other cultures celebrate during this time of year and emphasize the values of diversity.

Honesty

Telling the truth is one way to show people that you care. This includes owning up to your mistakes and admitting the truth when you may not want to. Demonstrate honesty for your child by practicing it yourself, but also teach your child that honesty should be practiced with kindness. Discuss situations when it's better to avoid saying something mean, even if your child thinks it's the truth. If Uncle Jim's put on a few pounds, talk about how kindness trumps honesty in this scenario—it might hurt his feelings to tell him he's gained weight.

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Fairness

Your child might be too young to understand the concepts of justice and equality when applied to the world, but the idea of fairness can be taught anywhere. Ask your child how she thinks fairness can be demonstrated in a family, with friends, or at school. Use games to practice playing by the rules and respecting opponents.

Self-Respect

Self-respect is earned by showing compassion, honesty, fairness, and humility towards others and oneself. Boost your child's confidence by praising her good qualities and giving her many opportunities to build skills. Treat minor missteps as learning moments, and support her by being confident that next time.

Responsibility

Understanding the connection between actions and consequences is a surefire way to build character. Require that your child take ownership of her behavior and actions. Give her a few chores that are appropriate for her age. When she's gotten the hang of those, give her more responsibilities and more freedoms, too. Once she's shown that she can handle dusting her room, have her start cleaning the bathroom sink too; but also give her more freedom to be in charge of her own time instead of scheduling out her days for her. Learning that responsibility and freedom go hand in hand will help shape her into an independent person.

Self-Discipline

Many kids may not take the initiative to set goals and follow through on them, but they can start learning to. Encourage your child to pick a task and set a deadline. Help out by breaking large tasks into smaller parts. With practice, your child will develop patience, persistence, and the strength to meet the challenges that often come with ambitious efforts.

Judgment

Good judgment requires careful decision making. Remind your child to think about consequences of her actions, reason through feelings and facts, and consider impulses before acting on them. Discuss various hypothetical "sticky" situations with your child, and decide together what the best action would be. If your child behaves in a way that shows some less-than-perfect judgment, have her verbalize why she acted that way and what she could have done differently.

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Civic Duty

Responsible citizens care for their communities. They actively work to help the greater good. Teach your child about giving back. Bring her along as you volunteer with the elderly. Pack food and donate items for people in need. Ask your child to choose a charitable cause she cares about, and find out how she could participate in events supporting it.

With the right attitude, you may be amazed what a wonderful kid you can raise. Emphasizing these priceless values during the season of pricey presents will pay off in the end.

A surefire way to balance the "gimme-gimmes" of the holidays is to give back! Check out these 10 ways to give back for some ideas.

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