Good Character Matters

How to Instill Good Character in Children

A child’s character and reputation should matter to every parent. As homeschool parents, we have an advantage – we have all day, every day, to form and mold our child’s character, reputation, and values. We have the opportunity to see how our children react and respond in different situations and various challenges and pressures all day long.

These opportunities showcase various character deficiencies and allow us to guide them into better actions and behavior. We need to take advantage of all these opportunities to help our children develop good character.

Character matters!

Define the Terms

What do we mean when we talk about character and values? And why do they matter? Let me ask you this. Were your children born honest or generous? I don’t know about yours, but I know my children were not born that way! I am sure you remember teaching them to share their toys with others. Or to say, “Thank you” or “Please.”

Our character traits and values are those things which define us as a person. Someone may be a scientist, an engineer, or a chef, but those words don’t tell us what type of person they are. Honest, kind, generous – those are words that define the character of a person.

Sure, anyone can put on an act of generosity or humility, but is that really who they are? What is a person like when no one is watching? You’ve seen the news stories about celebrities – the ones who put on a show of being kind, caring persons, but the reports come out that behind the scenes, that same person is crude, nasty, self-centered. Your character tells who you are when no one is watching. It shows us the “real” person behind the mask.

Character is who you are when no one is looking.

What is Your Moral Compass, Your Authority Source for Character and Values?

Values? Character? Moral Compass? All character traits and values of importance must have a source. Who determines what is right and what is not? You could consider your authority source to be your moral compass, your guide, or your map to good behavior.

In today’s world, people choose their moral compass, their accepted authority source, from several different options.

Culturally accepted norms

Some people decide that whatever is culturally acceptable will guide their values and behavior. Does the culture accept telling lies to accomplish a greater good? Fine, no problem. Does the culture stand for unfaithfulness and infidelity? Then why do I need to be faithful to a spouse? What’s suitable for the culture around me is good enough for me.

What happens, then, when culturally accepted norms change? How will you adapt and change when those around you change their values? Is anything constant?                   

Religious Training

Sometimes our values are based on our religious upbringing. My church teaches that I should not do this, or I should not participate in certain behaviors. The catechism I learned as a child told me to think this way or act in a particular manner.

But what if your church changes its teachings? Or another religion teaches a different value system? What do you do?

Family Values

Families tend to teach values and character traits to their children. We always act this way. Or, this is how your grandfather expects you to behave. Don’t let your uncle hear you speak like that!

But what is the basis for those behaviors or values? What is the foundation? If we teach our children to act in ways so as not to upset another family member, those are not behaviors instilled in their habits. Those actions are not part of their character.

Self-Preservation or Self-Centeredness

Too often, we see children taught that they need to do whatever it takes to get ahead or to satisfy themselves, even if that comes at the expense of others. Their character formation emphasizes whatever will work to their advantage. All about “me.”

Their values’ authority, or their moral compass, points only to themselves. “Self” is the center or everything.

God – the Highest Authority

Some of us choose the highest authority as the basis of our character and values. I respect and choose the God of the Bible as the highest authority on all matters of life, including my value system. The values and character traits in the Bible are those that honor God, place value on others, and promote honorable behavior.

What’s more, God and his Word do not change. He is constant, and that which he values remains the same. If I base my character, and that of my children, on the values taught in the Bible, I do not need to be concerned that God will change what he honors and respects. His values are constant, unchanging, and always honorable.

Good Character Matters

Why is one’s character so important? Does it still matter? Isn’t all this talk of character and values old-fashioned or obsolete? I don’t believe it is, and I don’t think you believe that, either.

Good Character Instilled in Young Children will Act as a Guide for Life

We said earlier that character defines us; it is who we are when no one is looking. When children are taught character from an early age, it becomes a part of them, a way of life. Your child’s character and his values will affect him in all aspects of life. A proper value system can help them make a difference in the world around them.

  • Friendships – Does it matter who your child chooses as friends? Close friends have a significant impact on a child or young person. Good character training will help your child be friendly to all but carefully choose his close friends. With a proper foundation for his character, a child will learn to select those friends who share a similar value system.
  • Decisions – Our character and values impact all the decisions we make in life. Those values that matter to us help to determine many of our choices. Therefore, good values, good character help us make wise and well-thought-out decisions.
  • Peer Pressure – A foundation of good character and values will help your child withstand some of the pressure they may face from their peers. You all remember how hard it is to take a stand for something or go against the crowd. A solid foundation in good values will help your child as they face those situations.
  • Dealing with Others – Good character training teaches your child to respond to others appropriately. If you teach your child to respect others, to value others because they are human, then the color of a person’s skin should make no difference to them. If we teach our children that every life has value because the almighty God created each one, they learn to treat each person as a unique individual, no matter their background, ethnicity, or origins.

Good Character is the Basis of a Good Reputation

Our reputation is how others see us, how the world perceives us. You all know people by their reputations – You can trust that person; he is always honest. Don’t go to that place; it is dirty, and the service is terrible. I wouldn’t go to that accountant; he has been in trouble with the IRS numerous times. All those are examples of reputations. Your child’s character will form his reputation, how others perceive him.

  • Among their Peers – How do his peers perceive your child? Is she the one that no one can trust to keep their secret? Or is she the one that everyone comes to with their problems because she is trustworthy? Is he the one that always exaggerates his exploits so no one can ever believe what he says?
  • At their Job – Someday, your child will have a job. What reputation will they earn at their place of work? Will he be the one always trusted to show up to work on time with a good attitude? Will she gain promotions and be given more responsibilities because of her honesty? Or will your child be the one no one wants to work with because he always has a bad attitude, never works hard, or is continually late? Your child’s character will mold his work reputation.
  • In Community – Character is known within your community, however large or small that may be. Your community might be your neighborhood, your homeschool group, your church, or your town. Hey, it might even be all of those. But your children’s character will be evident, no matter the size of your community. Are they kind, obedient, gentle? Or are your children known to be the neighborhood terrors or bullies? Their character and values form their reputations, even from an early age.

Good Character Must Be Taught

None of us are born with good character. Some personalities are more quiet or gentle than others, but we are all born self-centered and self-serving. We need to learn right and proper behavior and have good character taught to us. Your children are no exception to this! So how do children learn good values? A child’s character must be guided and molded by explicit instruction, by reinforcement, and by example.

Instruction

We must teach good character traits to children intentionally. Just like we teach good hygiene or good manners, we must instruct our children in good character. But even more importantly, we need to teach them the foundation, the reason for the character traits. Be honest – why? Not just because Mom said so. Why should a child learn honesty? Who says honesty matters? God said we should not lie. The Bible teaches us always to tell the truth. If the Bible is your foundation for life, your values have a firm, unchangeable foundation.

Teach character and teach your basis for that character trait. Give your child a foundation for his values. Anything built with a solid, unshakeable foundation will last longer than something built on shifting sand.

Gentle Reminders

Teaching character traits and values is not a “once-and-done” sort of teaching. Good character training involves constant repetition and reminders. Please, don’t make the reminders in opposition to the character you are teaching! If you are trying to teach gentleness, your reminder should not include yelling at your child.

Consistent gentle reminders of good character will benefit your child. Learning patterns of thinking and acting takes time, effort, and practice.

Example

The best way to teach and reinforce positive character traits is by consistent modeling. Our children learn so much from our actions and reactions. The way we treat others, the values that are important to us, the morals and habits we want them to develop in their own lives, we need to demonstrate those behaviors in our own lives and behavior. How will they learn honesty if we routinely lie and deceive them? Do we want them to develop a grateful attitude? How will that happen if they continually hear us complaining?

There is an old saying, “Your actions speak so loudly; I can’t hear what you are saying.” Truth lives in those words. We cannot expect our children to develop good character if we don’t model it ourselves.

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Good Character Traits to Focus On

So, where should we start? What values or character traits matter the most? Are any prized more than others? Hard to say. But here are a few fundamental values that most people will agree are important. Developing these in the lives of our children will build their good reputations and lead to other positive values.

Kindness

We need to teach our children to be kind to everyone, not just our favorite friends. Kindness seeks the well-being of others. Showing kindness in speech and actions will prevent them from becoming bullies.

Honesty

Please teach your children to value the truth. Truth always matters in all things. Honesty will earn trust. Money or possessions can never make up for lack of honesty and truthfulness.

Respect

We need to teach our children to respect other people and their possessions. When we respect others, we don’t mock them or seek to harm them. When we respect others’ property, we don’t steal it, damage it, or even covet it. Children also need to learn to respect time and money as well. People, property, time, and money all have value, and that value needs to be respected.

Children should also learn to respect themselves, to see their value as an individual. They need to value themselves as unique individuals created by God according to His perfect design and purpose for them.

Gratefulness

We could call this thankfulness – appreciating what we have, who we are, our current situation. A genuine attitude of gratefulness will prevent envy and jealousy. This attitude will also help children learn to value those things given to them.

Contentment

Learning to be content with what we have or where we are is an important character trait to teach our children. Why do so many people end up in so much debt? They always must have something more, or better, or newer, etc. Teaching contentment can help to eliminate the idea that we never have enough. Contentment is not the same as never trying to better yourself, learn new skills, make things better, or make progress. Instead, those desires should not be the definition of our character. We don’t always have to be better or have more than others around us.

Faithfulness/Reliability

Can others depend on your children to do what they said they would do? Will they show up on time for a job? Will they be responsible for completing assigned tasks? We need to teach our children to be faithful, reliable, and dependable.

Industriousness

I think this term includes several things – a good, solid work ethic, persistence and perseverance, and wise use of time. Are we teaching our children to be industrious, to work hard until a job he finishes the job? Are we training them to use their time wisely? What example do we set for them in these areas?

So many things to consider! Hey, no one ever said that parenting is an easy job! As homeschool parents, our roles of parent, teacher, counselor, mentor gives us so many opportunities to develop positive character in our children. Are we taking advantage of all those opportunities? Remember, character traits and values need to be taught, reinforced, and modeled. How are you doing?

Looking for more homeschool help? Try these articles:

Homeschool Basics

Back to School

Who is Ready for School to Start?

Need some help? I have prepared a list of positive character traits along with some Biblical basis for these values. This list could serve as a reminder for you of those things you are striving to see in your children. Get your copy here.

Positive Character Development - Get Your Copy Here.
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