Character education begins at home. Although you can reinforce good principles in the school or workforce, character formation begins when a child is young and continues throughout his or her lifetime. Parents are perhaps the most important influence in a child’s life. The role they play in the formation of a child’s character is critical to his or her upbringing. From the time a child is young enough to understand, parents should beginning shaping his or her character so that he or she can grow with the kind of values and principles needed to make a positive contribution to society.
Train Up a Child with Character Education
There is much truth to the Biblical principle of “training up a child in the way he should go.” A young child’s mind and heart is much more mold-able than an adult’s. In the case of developing character, it pays to begin teaching children from the time they are tots. Children as young as one year old can learn the difference between right and wrong if parents take the time to teach them and follow through on their obedience.
Two year olds are notorious for being stubborn, willful, independent and downright mean at times; this does not mean, however, that parents should abdicate their responsibility and let their children get away with such behavior. A child left to do as he pleases as early as 2 and 3 years old can easily endanger his own safety or the safety of others. By helping children distinguish right from wrong and giving them boundaries to live by, parents help mold their children’s character and set them on a positive path for their future.
The first step towards building a child’s character with Character Education is determining what values are important enough to you to warrant passing on to your children. Even small children can understand what behavior is acceptable for their age and what behavior is not. Three of the most popular concepts used to teach young children positive behavior are:
1. Children are not allowed to hurt themselves through their words or actions.
2. They are not allowed to hurt others through their words or actions.
3. They are not allowed to hurt or destroy their belongings or the belongings of others.
By enforcing these concepts in your children’s lives, you teach them responsibility, self control and a concern for others. These positive traits can be ingrained in them as they grow so that they become a natural part of their character.
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As a parent, you play a key role in your child’s personal development and character education. Your children need direction and guidance at home as much as they do in school and other environments. You have the opportunity to shape and mold your children’s character through what you teach them when they are young. The foundation you build when they are young will help them stand stronger when they get older. As children grow, they become responsible for their own decisions. However, they will have stronger convictions to what is right as a tween or teen if they have had a strong character building foundation in their youth.
Teaching your kids good morals and values is imperative to their upbringing. At the same time, your children need to see you living those same values yourself before they will adopt them as their own. If those values are not a part of your personal lifestyle, you will be wasting your time trying to instill them into the lives of your children. Children learn much more from what they see than what they hear. You will be much more successful in getting your kids to follow your teaching if you are a living sample of living what is being taught.
It’s only natural for children to emulate their parents or other family members. Today’s parents need to learn how to lead by example. As children see good character traits displayed in your life, it will be much easier for them to learn the same. They will have greater respect for you and what you stand for. By taking an active role in your children’s lives, you can help them grow into responsible and caring young people that will be pillars in their school and community.
Bucking the Tide with Character Education
Most all parents want their children to learn good character traits as they grow. Unfortunately, there are many negative influences in society today that contradict these values. Television, movies, books and toys are all part of a child’s upbringing. Sometimes, however, children receive more negative input from these aspects than good. This negative input can damage the foundation you are trying to build.
Children who are taught to be kind, considerate and thoughtful of others can easily be misled by watching cartoons and movies where the main characters display unloving, destructive and selfish behavior. The focus of many of today’s comics, books and video games is violence and aggression. With this kind of input, it is no wonder that bullying is so prevalent at home, in school and other social environments.
If parents are going to make any real headway in teaching their children positive character traits, they are going to have to buck the tide and not allow so many negative influences into their children’s lives. As a parent, you will need to be selective in what your children watch via television and movies. There are many good television shows and movies that reinforce the positive traits you want your children to learn. Rather than have your kids wasting time with foolish or destructive input, you can help channel their interests into that which is educational and positive.
Children love to learn; but like little sponges, they tend to absorb both the good and the bad. It’s a parent’s job to help kids filter their input and teach them right from wrong, good from bad, positive from negative. As a parent, it’s your job to teach your children that there are moral values and absolutes in the world. They will live a happier and more productive life demonstrating strong moral fiber and character.
If you don’t want your children developing bad attitudes and habits that destroy good character, prevention is often a much better route to take. You can prevent negative character traits from growing by not allowing negative influences into your home. Young children are very impressionable. By training them well when they are young, they will be able to make better choices as they grow older. A child who has had a strong positive foundation in his youth will be able to make better choices as a teen. He or she will have stronger moral convictions and a better sense of right and wrong.
Character Education: An Ongoing Process
Character education may begin when a child is young, but continues throughout adult life. It is not a one time learning process that ends upon entering adulthood. As an adult, you can continue to develop your character, shed bad habits and mindsets and grow stronger in the positive traits you desire.
Once your children reach the age of 12 or 13, they begin to take responsibility for the decisions they make on their own. This is generally known as the age of accountability. At this age, young people are greatly affected by outside influences such as their friends, peers, classmates, the Internet, etc. A good number of tweens and teens partake of social media such as Facebook and utilize this means to connect with peers and friends.
Unfortunately, not all social media interaction is on a positive level. Cyber bullying and gossiping are very real problems with social media. Many young people have been criticized and maligned through gossip and rumors spread on the Internet via emails or social media sites. This type of behavior has caused young people a great deal of personal anguish and pain. It is a result of lack of concern and respect for others and can occur anytime, anywhere, when you least expect it.
By the same token, cyber bullying can often be curtailed or stopped entirely by teens refusing to participate in these illicit actions and standing up for the rights of others. Today’s young people need to have the conviction to take action against any type of bullying, be it on the schoolyard or the Internet. By reporting these instances to their parents, school administration, community leader or even sending an anonymous tip to an anti cyber bullying website or campaign, young people can be part of the solution to bringing this destructive behavior to an end. Enough people taking swift and positive action against these acts can make a big difference in the lives of others in the community where you live.
Young people who demonstrate that they care about the lives of others are men and women of character. These are individuals who were taught the importance of showing consideration and respect for others. When they see people being mistreated, maligned or in danger, they stand up for them in their time of need. As you put good character traits into action, your convictions in this area will grow stronger.
Positive character traits such as honesty, consideration, kindness, conviction and others are not meant to be dormant qualities in your life. Neither are they meant to be exercised only in times of convenience. Character training is progressive your whole life through. When you believe in these traits, they become a part of who you are and what you stand for. That is the kind of character development that will make a difference in the lives of our children and that will make a difference in the world at large.