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Teaching Character Traits at Home Is Good for Our Children

“Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Most of us are careful to teach our children manners. We begin doing so early on. Manners are important because they teach children to respect others. Just as it is essential to teach our children manners at home, it is vital to do the same with character traits. 

A child’s character is as important as an adult’s and is the embryo from which our adult self is born. By making children aware of positive character traits, parents are guiding them toward being adults who embody those traits. 

One way we indirectly teach character traits to our children is by using something they have or haven’t done as an example. For instance, if our child has only partially completed a task we have asked them to do, we may say to them something like, “Doing something only half-way isn’t behaving responsibly. The responsible thing is to complete the task the way I asked you to.” From this statement, they understand what it is to be responsible. 

A more direct way to teach our children positive character traits is to make a concerted effort to do so with the child as an active participant. One way is to make a project of it. Gather together a list of character traits you believe your child should know and emulate. There are numerous lists in online blog posts and on Pinterest. You might also ask your child’s teacher for a list they are using with the class at school and add some of the same traits to yours.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Once your list is created, decide how to disseminate its information. One way is to devote a day or an entire week to one of the traits on the list. Sit down with your child and tell them that together you will be choosing a character trait to discuss and practice. Chances are your child has learned something about what character traits are from the books they have read with you, and at school, and understand their concept. They know Hansel and Gretel are brave and the witch who lures them into her gingerbread house is mean. 

When you introduce your child to a trait on the list, define it for them in terms they can understand. Ask them to tell you in return what it means in their own words. Then ask them why they think the trait is important. To further reinforce the concept, if it is practical, you might ask your child to do something that day, or during the week, to practice the trait. For example, if you are teaching them kindness, you might ask them to take a moment and do something nice for someone. You may not want, or be able, to do this for each trait, but doing so for some will go a long way in illustrating their meaning. Also, especially with kindness or responsibility, the child will experience the good feeling that accompanies it.

Character traits may seem complex, but they are quite easy to teach if you go about doing so in a practical way. Remember, too, that books, nursery rhymes, poems, even biographies of noteworthy people can provide you and your child with further confirmation of the importance of being of good character.

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