Written by: Coach Joe
Hey everyone! I’m back to give this blog thing a whirl again (I know how much you all enjoyed my first post).
When I told Natalie I’d write another blog, I knew I wanted to talk about building
character. Why? Because this year has been unlike any other year that I can remember. And character is something we need now more than ever.
So what is character? The good ‘ol dictionary (do people still own one of those?) defines character as one of the attributes that make up and distinguish an individual. But character is so much more than that and it’s something we all want to instill in our children. It isn’t just one attribute. Rather, it’s shown in the way children act, think, and feel in life.
So, how do we build character in our kids? Here’s five key ways to help start that process at home:
Being honest and truthful makes you reliable. That’s something you want to instill in your kids, but the tough part is that sometimes being honest leads to consequences you don’t necessarily want to deal with - and that’s what leads to dishonesty. Start by putting more emphasis on their honesty than on the consequences for their dishonesty. Kids need to know that they’ll be met with compassion and understanding when they come to you with the truth. This will give them the courage they need to face those consequences, however terrible they may seem.
Empathy is the foundation for acting ethically and building healthy relationships. Start the process of teaching empathy by empathizing with your child and modeling empathy for others. Children watch how we interact and treat the people around us. Consider regularly engaging in community service both in and outside of your community. Doing this slowly expands their circle of concern and guides them in understanding and caring for people who are different from them.
C.S. Lewis once said, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” This can be a tough concept for kids to understand because it’s so abstract. Help them understand it by talking about scenarios they might come across in their daily life. Ask them what they might do if they saw their friend stealing or bullying someone else. Talking through these scenarios with them will help them understand the importance of doing the right thing even though it may not be the popular choice.
Oftentimes we try to create a world of structure and predictability for our kids. I mean, they crave structure right? Routines, a regular schedule, and consistent expectations help them feel safe and secure. But, if this year has taught us anything, life isn’t always predictable. We need to teach them how to handle the ups and downs they’ll inevitably face in life. When they’re faced with a new challenge or situation, talk to them about their feelings and what they think the outcome is going to be. Specifically look for catastrophic thinking. Listen for words like “never”, “always”, and “everyone”. Challenge those statements and help them develop a more balanced view of the outcome. Encourage them to think of a positive outcome and with time they’ll be able to handle the stress of changes in their life.
People usually use the words tolerance and acceptance when talking about respect. But respect is so much more than that. Respecting someone means that you truly value them for who they are and for their contributions. I could probably talk about this topic for days, but I’ll stick with the most important strategies for teaching respect:
Demand good manners. Please and thank you isn’t just a formality. It’s showing the other person that you truly appreciate them.
Don’t tolerate rudeness. Respond to rude behavior immediately and make it clear that it’s unacceptable.
Establish rules. Setting boundaries teaches them that the world doesn’t revolve around them and that they need to be considerate of others.
Take care of your belongings. Explain to them what things are worth and to value their belongings. Taking care of their things will help them develop a deep sense of gratitude.
Character is something that is learned and is fostered through experience. What I’ve learned from family, friends, and work colleagues has gotten me to this day (and blog) - and I hope that this helps you bring a little of what I learned into your own homes.