There are many ways to help raise kids with character. Here are five ideas to get you started thinking more about how we can influence our kids to have a strong moral compass:
Our kids are watching every move we make. They are noticing our language and behavior, and taking copious notes along the way. We can model opening doors for others, using polite manners, and apologizing when we make mistakes. Our children may not know that we noticed not being charged for an item on our receipt, however, they will remember you going back to the customer service desk and paying for that item.
The summer we had our roof replaced was one of the hottest summers I remember. I engaged my kids in conversation about how hard that work must be in the middle of summer, and what we could do for the workers who were replacing our roof. We made ice cold lemonade and brought it to the roofers. My kids remembered that gesture a year later when our neighbors had their roof replaced. My children asked if we could deliver lemonade to those roofers too:)
The manner in which we handle conflict is another way we can model good character with our children. Giving others the benefit of the doubt, handling differences with respect, and being good listeners are examples of what we want our children to learn.
Giving children the opportunity to volunteer is important. It’s helpful to have your child/ren agree on how they would like to volunteer. We donated locally to a church that was delivering supplies to individuals who were affected by a hurricane. I could have dropped the supplies off myself, but I involved my children in buying the items and in delivering them. We were all speechless when we saw every inch of 5 school buses packed with supplies. It was heartwarming to see, and my kids felt like an important part of that effort. Every interaction of ours that our children witness is an opportunity to model being respectful and a person with strong character. Make giving a part of your daily routine.
Setting Limits and Disciplining with Love
Disciplining with love, and not with fear, builds character in children. Our children need consistency and routine; they need to know what our expectations of them are, and what failing to meet those expectations will result in. We can give a consequence and take away screen time without raising our voice or having an unpredictable response. We can say, “I’m so sorry you chose not to listen and follow the rules. You will lose your screen time today, but I know you can make better choices next time.” Our children need to feel loved, even when they have made a poor choice. They need to understand that we can tolerate their mistakes, while encouraging them to do better. We may not be able to predict our kids behavior, but our children should always be able to predict our behavior.
Creating Opportunities for Discussion and Reflection
Rather than telling your children what to do, ask them how they think they can resolve difficult situations/conflict. You are teaching problem solving skills with your children, and they will feel better about the decisions they make when they have a say in it. Encourage empathy as you ask your child how it might feel to be in someone else’s shoes.
Eating meals together as a family creates opportunity to give your kids and your family undivided attention. Enjoying meals as a family puts emphasis that family time and healthy meals are important for our mind and body. There are so many benefits to eating meals together as a family. We can engage our kids in discussion while we are driving from here to there for after school activities and play dates, however, we aren’t able to make eye contact with our kids when our eyes are on the road. Eating meals together provides time that we can model appropriate communication skills, which is becoming an enormous challenge with how prevalent technology has become in our lives. Our dinner time tradition is for each family member (and guest) to share the best part of their day, the worst part of their day, and sharing an act of kindness they displayed during the day. There is an expectation that we help others every day.
What did you take away from this?
I hope that you are able to take something from this and incorporate it into your efforts to raise kids with character. Sharing ideas with other parents that encourage our children to be young adults who are good role models is one of the joys of parenting and of being a mental health therapist.
-Karen Southwick, LCSW • Therapist
Share your ideas and examples with other parents by posting them to our Facebook page or comment on this blog.