Character Education: 5 Attributes to Teach Your Kids
Parenting—It's a simple matter to teach your kids things like going potty and tying their shoes; teaching facts is a straightforward process. But as experienced parents know, many of life's most important lessons aren't based on facts, they're based on character.
Building character in our children isn't a matter of what we tell them, it's more about what we show them. Here are some important lessons about life we must model for our children for them to learn.
5 Character Attributes to Teach Your Kids
1. How to Be a Moral Person
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This article isn't about what is moral vs. what isn't. Whatever your personal moral values are, you'll want to make sure your kids understand and adhere to them. Things you believe about sexuality and other moral issues are important to you, and kids pick up on this. But they also pick up quickly on what you say as opposed to what you do. Are you telling them one thing about moral behavior and modeling another? Kids are going to hear what you do much louder than what you say.
2. How to Be an Empathetic Person
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Parents don't have the liberty of choosing when they teach their kids and when they don't. Parents are constantly teaching children by what they say and how they act, and the kids are learning. Empath— the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes and feel as they do—isn't an easy concept to teach children. But kids do notice when we put aside our own wants and needs for someone else's feelings.
3. How to Respect Others
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Respect is earned. We can't expect our kids to respect law enforcement, teachers, and other authority figures if we don't show our respect for these institutions. Does your child see and hear you offering your respect to people of different cultures and social statuses, or are they getting the opposite lesson from you? Respect goes beyond authority figures. Treat store clerks, bank tellers, waiters, and others with respect, and your kids will grow up to be respectful citizens.
4. How to Stand Up for What You Believe
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It's very easy in this world of differing opinions and ideologies to begin swallowing what everyone else does and letting our own deep beliefs go unsung. Do you believe that animal exhibits, like the zoo and SeaWorld, are unfair to the captive animals? Then don't take your kids. Are you opposed to violence? Then don't allow violent films and video games in the home. Make sure what you believe is reflected in your family's activities.
5. How to Have a Good Work Ethics
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We all want our kids to grow up and become productive members of society. Are we modeling this behavior for them, or giving them the opposite impression? Are you always complaining about having to go to work? Do you exhibit a bad attitude about your job at the family dinner table? Kids may interpret this to mean work is a bad thing. Life is tough, but perhaps complaining about our hectic and unfulfilling careers is something to keep between adults, not the little ones.
The important thing is to live your life in a manner consistent with your personal values. If you're trying to instill values within your children to be proud of when they're grown, the key is modeling that behavior for them now. They're smart cookies!
What do you do to make sure your children are learning the values and character traits you want them to have?
Natalie Bracco is a freelance writer and an amateur baker. When she's not busy in the kitchen, you can find her writing about technology, travel, food and family. Follow her on Twitter @nataliebracco.