Let’s play “Back to the Future” and pretend it’s twenty-five years from now. Your kids are grown, and they’re healthy and happy. (What we all hope, right?) So here’s your key question to contemplate as you pretend to look at your adults:
What character traits do you hope to see in your grown kids the most?”
One crucial point to keep in mind: Character traits differ from temperament and personality like “outgoing, reserved, sensitive, shy, laid-back” and are largely genetically coded. The temperaments of my three sons that I saw in their first year of their lives are largely the same temperaments I see in them as young men today.
Character is defined by those great home-spun virtues like honest, perseverance, compassion, responsible, respectful and those trait can be nurtured and reinforced.So what character trait do you hope to see most in your grown child? For instance, do you hope he is respectful, frugal, appreciative, tolerant or fair? Or patient, kind, empathetic and charitable? Maybe you are hoping for persevering or tolerant? There is no right answer. You’ll get 100% for any response. In fact, over 400 virtues have been identified over time. Your task is to identify those that matter most to you and your family and you believe will be the trait (or traits) that help your child thrive in that world without you.
Your answer is critical. You see, if you identify that trait you are actually far more likely to succeed in seeing it in your grown child. It’s all because we’re more mindful of nurturing and reinforcing it in our everyday moments with our children.
Over the past years I’ve spoken to thousand of parents (over one million and counting) and worked with hundreds of schools around the world. The one point that I always try to convey is this: The character habits and beliefs that our kids learn now will help guide their behavior for the rest of their lives. After all, one of our most important parenting goals is to help our kids learn to act right without us. Achieving that goal will take deliberate and intentional parenting–especially in today’s world which openly flaunts inappropriate values to our kids.
10 Parenting Strategies That Raise Kids of Strong Character
Here are ten parenting strategies that will help you raise your child so he or she The character-building strategies are adapted from my books, Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues That Teach Kids to Do the Right Thing and UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World. and are based on some of the best research in character development. So roll up your sleeves, and get started:
1. Commit to raising a moral child
Research finds that parents who feel strongly about their kids turning out morally usually succeed because they committed themselves to that effort. If you really want to raise a moral child, then make a personal commitment to raise one, and then don’t stop until he does.
2. Be a strong moral example
Parents are their children’s first and most powerful moral teachers, so make sure the moral behaviors your kids are picking up from you are ones that you want them to copy. Try to make your life a living example of good moral behavior for your child to see. Each day ask yourself:
“If my child had only my behavior to watch, what example would he catch?”
The answer is often quite telling.
3. Know your moral beliefs & share them
Before you can raise a moral child, you must be clearly about what believe in. Take time to think through your values then share them regularly to your child explaining why you feel the way you do. He’ll be hearing endless messages that counter your beliefs, so it’s essential that he hears about your standards.
4. Use teachable moments
The best teaching moments aren’t ones that are planned-they happen unexpectedly. Look for moral issues to talk about as they come up. Take advantage of those moments because they help your child develop solid moral beliefs.
5. Use discipline as a moral lesson
Effective discipline should ensure that the child not only recognizes why her behavior was wrong but also knows what to do to make it right next time. So help your child always reflect on the consequences of his actions:
“Was that the right thing to do? Why?”
“What should you do next time?”
“What will you do?”
Have that conversation so your child learns from his mistakes and grows morally.
6. Expect socially responsible behavior
Kids who act morally have parents who expect them to do so. It sets a standard for your child’s conduct and also lets her know in no uncertain terms what you value. So post your moral standards at home then consistently reinforce them until your child internalizes them so they become his rules, too. Remember your ultimate goal is to wean your child from your guidance so he acts right on his own.
7. Reflect on the behavior impact.
Researchers tell us one of the best moral-building practices is to point out the impact of the child’s behavior on the offended: “See, you made her cry.”
Or highlight the victim’s feeling (“Now he feels bad”). Help your child imagine what it would be like to be in the victim’s place so she will be more sensitive to how her behavior impacts others.
8. Reinforce moral behaviors
One of the simplest ways to help kids learn new behaviors is to reinforce them as they happen. So purposely catch your child acting morally and acknowledge her good behavior by describing what she did right and why you appreciate it.
9. Intentionally prioritize “character” daily
Encourage your child to lend a hand to make a difference in his world, and always help him recognize the positive effect the gesture had on the recipient. The real goal is for kids to become less and less dependent on adult guidance by incorporating moral principles into their daily lives and making them their own. That can happen only if parents emphasize the importance of the virtues over and over and their kids repeatedly practice those moral behaviors.
10. Incorporate the golden rule
Teach your child the Golden Rule that has guided many civilizations for centuries: “Treat others as you want to be treated.” It helps him think about his behavior and its consequences on others. Make the rule become your family’s over-arching moral principal. There is no better rule to guide moral intelligence.
One thing is clear: kids don’t learn how to be moral from reading about it in textbooks but from day to day living. So become a living textbook to your children of good moral living. Using simple but proven strategies can make real differences on your children’s lives—especially when you choose ones that matter most in raising good kids then commit to making them become a habit in your daily parenting.
For more strategies on building character and raising good kids follow me on twitter @micheleborba or go to my website at MicheleBorba. The ideas from this blog were adapted from my book, Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues That Teach Kids to Do the Right Thing (Jossey Bass).
My new book, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About Me World offers dozens of practical, research-based ways to raise empathetic, compassionate, courageous children in our individualistic, me-me-me world.