In my last entry, I talked about the importance of being intentional about building character in kids. We as parents and caregivers are responsible for growing and shaping the next generation and it is imperative that we are raising kids with upstanding character. Not only are our kids learning from us when we are actively teaching them a life lesson, but they are always watching us and learning from us. Our actions and behavior directly impact that of our kids.
Our Kids Are Shaped By Outside Influences, Too
Unless you are raising your kids in a bubble, they are most definitely learning from outside influences. Books, television shows, cartoons, commercials, ads, social media…they all send messages to our kids. Are you paying attention to those messages? Compare it to a battle - outside influences versus your influence. Which side is coming to the battle more prepared?
It Takes Time and Effort
It can be overwhelming and stressful to think of all the things we need to teach our kids to raise them to be upstanding, productive citizens. Parenting the right way is difficult! It takes time and effort to do it the right way. But the payoff is so very worth the investment!
I Don’t Know Where to Start!
Step one is the most important - relax and take a deep breath. You’ve got this! You know your kids better than anyone. You know their strengths and weaknesses. Build on those strengths. It can be easy to stress out and agonize over their weaknesses. Don’t! You are dealing with tin humans who have only been living on this crazy planet for a few short years. They are learning and growing every day. We can’t expect them to know everything or be perfect. We have to keep in mind we are all imperfect beings. As long as we are aiming for growth and making progress toward our goals, we are successful!
Ten Practical Ways to Build Character
Read books that teach life lessons. Discuss the character’s thoughts and actions. Talk about the lessons learned. Better yet, talk about how those lessons can be applied to your situation.
Encourage honest conversations. Kids say some crazy things! Our reactions to those things will determine whether they feel comfortable sharing more in the future. Talk openly and honestly about life’s most challenging moments. Process through how to handle those moments with integrity.
Use teachable moments. When you see your child making good decisions or doing the right thing, acknowledge it and encourage your child to continue acting with integrity, even when no one is looking. When things aren’t going so well, take time to calmly and lovingly explain why the behavior wasn’t quite on target.
Stop asking “why”. Our first instinct when our kids make a terrible decision or behave poorly is to ask why they did this, that, or the other. The fact of the matter is they don’t know why. They have brains that aren’t fully developed and they don’t have the decision-making capability of an adult. You’ll rarely get a sufficient answer. Instead, tell the child what you saw and ask them to explain their side of the story. You’ll get more valuable information that way!
Filter the kinds of media your child is consuming. Read movie reviews, monitor social media, understand the types of games being played, and watch television with your child so you know the kinds of messages that are being delivered.
Volunteer! I don’t think I’ve met even one individual who regrets serving, volunteering, or helping others. It can be a humbling yet empowering experience. Plus, it makes our world and community better places!
Faith. I know not all of my readers go to church, but faith in a higher power can give meaning and purpose to life. Understanding that we have a calling and a purpose on earth helps to focus our thoughts and actions.
Surround yourself and your child with positive influences. Should we be kind and friendly to everyone? Absolutely! But bad company corrupts good character. Help your child choose friends wisely.
Think out loud. When you find yourself at a crossroads and need to make a decision about whether to act with integrity or not, discuss your thought process with your child. Why did you choose to let that lady go ahead of you in line? Why didn’t you return the favor when that guy flipped you off? Why is it important for guys to open the doors for the ladies? Kids love to know the why.
Admit your mistakes. We want to seem perfect in our children’s eyes. It feels good to be the hero. But the fact is that we, too, are imperfect. Our kids know it (remember, they see everything!). Admit when you’ve made a mistake, explain why, and commit to doing better next time. They will learn a whole lot more from what you do than what you say.
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