Character Development: Forming Positive Values in Children

We are shocked when we read about new levels of violence among teenagers, or bullying being starting at a lower age. Kids are raised seeing countless acts of violence via a wide variety of technology so easily available. What can we as parents, caretakers and educators do to reverse the trend?

Former US Secretary of Education William J. Bennet in his book “The Educated Child” states that “children are not born with knowledge of the virtues. They must learn what they are. Attaining virtue is like so much else in life: It takes lots of practice. By putting virtues into action over and over again, we help them take root. Eventually they become second nature—they become part of one’s character. Your family is the first and most important school of morality. Home is where your child comes to know right and wrong through the nurturing and protective care of those who love him/her more than anyone else. Teachers should be allies in this endeavor, but they cannot be substitutes. Schools cannot replace parents in the crucial task of molding character in the young. Teach your children to care deeply about the good.”

It can be easy to take for granted that your children will pick up the right qualities or virtues eventually. Some people might assume that their children will automatically learn all they need to learn simply through their interactions with others, their education, and reading materials appropriate for their age.

It’s true that “it takes a village to raise a child,” as the saying goes. No parents, no matter how loving, diligent, talented, and attentive, are capable of imparting and teaching everything to their children. Each person who interacts with children, and has the willingness and aptitude to contribute to a child’s upbringing and pass on what he or she can to the child, plays a valuable role in raising them. Many other people can help in this monumental task, and some people will play vital, irreplaceable roles—such as dedicated teachers, people your children are close to and look up to, role models, friends, grandparents or grandparent figures, or other relatives.

But as a parent, you are ultimately responsible for your children—for their education, for their training, for their well-being—and that responsibility is life-long. In order to play this role well, you need a vision and a plan of what your priorities are for your children’s care and training and education, in order to see that they are receiving those fundamentals.

What are the things that you feel are most important for them to learn? What are the qualities that you feel are vital for them to develop? Don’t stop at skills or talents or vocations, although you might have some goals for helping them develop their interests along those lines as well. Consider their character development, setting their moral compass, and helping them to develop the fundamental characteristics that are necessary to lead a happy and successful life, regardless of what career path they choose when they grow up.

Once you have a vision for what values you want to impart to your children, it’s helpful to regularly assess whether their needs are being met and whether you are making good progress toward reaching those goals. Are you spending enough quality time with them? Are the other people whom they spend time with contributing to their development? Are they having experiences that will shape their perspectives in a good way and that help them to understand the lessons they are being taught?

Your children won’t learn the important values in life if they are not taught. They learn by watching, yes. They learn by your example—very much so. But they also need explanation. They need to be taught. They need healthy discussion and conversations that give them a foundation in what is right or wrong, and help them to understand the reasons why. They need clear boundaries that are upheld. They need to be instructed in their work and habits and approach to life. They need to understand that there are consequences when they make the wrong choices.

Books can be tremendous, and there are some great materials that are wonderful aids in teaching, truly priceless. But no amount of reading can replace the need for you to teach your children those principles, to talk about those principles with them, and then to be examples of applying the principles so that the children see that the values are not just written in books, but that they reflect your personal convictions as well.

When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately wanted to paint another one. 

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you feed a stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind to animals. 

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make my favorite cake for me, and I learned that the little things can be the special things in life. 

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I learned that we all have to help take care of each other. 

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you give of your time and money to help people who had nothing, and I learned that those who have something should give to those who don’t. 

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you take care of our house and everyone in it, and I learned we have to take care of what we are given. 

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw how you handled your responsibilities, even when you didn’t feel good, and I learned that I would have to be responsible when I grow up. 

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw tears come from your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it’s alright to cry. 

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw that you cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be. 

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I learned most of life’s lessons that I need to know to be a good and productive person when I grow up. 

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I looked at you and wanted to say, “Thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.”

22-10-2016
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