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Character Building: Practical Tools for Working Parents

By Jean Tracy, MSS

"To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society." -Theodore Roosevelt, U.S. President

Teddy Roosevelt hit the mark with his words. To educate a child in reading, writing, and arithmetic and not character is to raise a menace to society.

How do we as working parents, teachers, and mentors help children build character? Below you will notice the five character building goals to instill in your children. Use the question following the goals as practical tools to build character now.

Discussion Topic for building character in your kids:

Imagine that a boy named Harold recently moved into your neighborhood. He constantly causes trouble. The school principal just sent him home with a note addressed to his parents about his acting out in class. You and your child discuss Harold's problems. You center your discussion on the five key goals listed below. To instill each goal, ask your child the following practical questions:

Character Building Goal 1-Empathy

Being aware of and caring about others' feelings.

Question:
If you were Harold, how would you feel?

Character Building Goal 2-Role-Taking

Putting oneself into another's shoes and understanding where they are coming from.

Question:
What do you think Harold wanted by acting out in class?

Character Building Goal 3-Social Awareness

Being aware of other's opinions, their needs, their likes, and dislikes.

Question:
If you were a classmate of Harold's, what might you think of Harold?

Character Building Goal 4-Self-Reflection

Examining our own thoughts, feelings, and, behaviors.

Question:
Have you ever misbehaved in class? How did you feel about yourself?

Character Building Goal 5-Internalizing Good Advice

Taking to heart the advice your child gives to others and following it when he or she needs it.
Question:
If you were giving good advice to Harold, what would you tell him?

Congratulations! By asking the above questions, you have just strengthened your child's character because you have awakened your child's thoughtful mind and caring heart.

We've examined what goals, as working parents, we need to instill and what questions to ask. Let's build character by asking the above questions in the following situations:

More Discussion Topics for Working Parents to Discuss with Kids:

  • Problems with characters on TV
  • Problems on the school bus
  • Problems in the classroom
  • Problems in the neighborhood
  • Problems at home
  • Problems in discussion stories

Now, it's time to take action. If you're like most working parents, just remember the questions and ask them often. Get your children to think and to feel wisely. By using these tools now, you will be building a better society for us all.

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