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Developing Character in Our Children

Helping Your Life Work

Volume 9, Issue 8

August 2013

Dear Reader,

My guest writer this month is Sara Dimerman, psychologist, parenting expert, author, media personlity and creator of I have known her since our daughters attended the same day care more than twenty years ago. Her books include ‘Character is the Key,’ ‘Am I a Normal Parent?’ and ‘How Can I Be Your Lover When I'm Too Busy Being Your Mother?’ This article was adapted from the original written in 2009 with Sara’s permission.

We want our kids to become caring, courageous, positive and principled people. But in today’s information-overdosed world, there are a thousand influences that we may not be happy about. When our children don’t act the way we hoped they would, we may worry about how to turn things around.

As a parent, educator and psychologist, I often hear parents wishing that their children would take greater initiative, be more empathic, take greater responsibility, value togetherness, treat peers, adults and themselves with respect, be more honest, face fears, persist through challenges, be less influenced by negative peer pressure and be better able to stand up for what they believe in. In other words - demonstrate character.

You have the power and influence to bring about changes in your children and to help them develop character. Here are some ways for you to model ten key character traits:

1. INITIATIVE: When new neighbours move onto your street, how do you welcome them? When a chore needs taking care of, do you usually offer or wait to be asked? Would you describe yourself as a “leader” or a “follower?”

2. INTEGRITY: If friend A speaks badly about friend B, do you stand up for friend B or join the slanderous conversation? Do your values and beliefs change depending on whether your children are around?

3. OPTIMISM? When it’s difficult to see your way through a maze of difficulty, do you focus on getting to the exit or on being stuck where you are? How do you help your children meet your expectations? By focusing on improvement, effort and interest or by looking at what they are doing wrong and then giving them pointers about how they can do things differently?

4. PERSEVERANCE: If you’re stuck on a difficult project, do you give up and walk away prematurely? Or take some time away and then come back to finish later? How quickly do you allow your child to let go of an activity because it is too challenging?

5. RESPECT: How do you talk to others when you are frustrated and feeling impatient? How do you model self-respect?

6. RESPONSIBILITY If your child repeatedly forgets his or her lunch at home, do you always drop it off at school? Do you follow through with your promises and obligations?

7. EMPATHY: If your child says that he or she is hot when you are feeling cold, what do you do or say? When your child is upset and tells you about a nasty incident at school, how do you react, even if you suspect that he or she may be partly to blame?

8. FAIRNESS: Do you give each of your children the identical item even if it is not necessary? Do you try to remain neutral when two of your children are fighting or do you tend to take sides?

9. COURAGE: When your child is afraid, do you usually tell him or her that there is nothing to be afraid of or do you acknowledge his or her fears as real and then use encouragement as a way of helping him face what he is afraid of? Do your children know that you have fears too? Do you expect boys and girls to react differently to fears?

10. HONESTY: What do you say if your child asks if the tooth fairy or Santa Claus is real? Are you ever dishonest about your child’s age to avoid paying a higher price for admittance to an event?

Barbara Fish, M.Ed.
Personal and Career Counsellor
“Helping Your Life Work”

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