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Helping Your Child Build Character

Teach your children to be independent. Teach your children that it is okay for them to be different, and they do not have to follow the crowd. Teach them right from wrong when they are young, and they will (more often than not) be able to make their own decisions, instead of listening to or following others. Remember that your child is not an extension of yourself. Your child is an individual under your care, not a chance for you to relive your life through them.

  • When your children get old enough to make decisions for themselves, you should encourage them to choose which extra-curricular activities they want to do or what friends they want to play with. Unless you think an activity is very dangerous, or a playmate is a very bad influence, you should let your children figure things out for themselves.
  • A child may have an opposite disposition, ie: introverted when you are extroverted, for instance, and will not be able to fit into the pattern and style that you choose, and will make his or her own decisions instead.
  • They need to learn that their own actions have consequences (good and bad). By doing so, it helps them to become good decision makers and problem solvers so that they are prepared for independence and adulthood.
  • Don’t routinely do things for your children that they can learn to do for themselves. While getting them a glass of water before bed is a nice way to make them get to sleep faster, don’t do it so often that they come to expect it.

Be a good role model. If you want your child to be well-behaved, then you should model the behavior and character you hope your children will adopt and continue to live by the rules that you set. Show them by example in addition to verbal explanations. Children have a tendency to become what they see and hear unless they make a conscious and concerted effort to break the mold. You don’t have to be a perfect person, but you should strive to do as you want your children to do, so you don’t look hypocritical if you tell your children to be polite to others when they find you getting in a heated argument in the supermarket.

  • It’s perfectly okay to make mistakes, but you should apologize or let your child know that the behavior is not good. You can say something like, “Mommy didn’t mean to yell at you. She was just very upset.” This is better than ignoring that you made a mistake, because that will show the child that he or she should model this behavior.
  • Want to teach kids about charity? Get involved and take your kids with you to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter and help serve up meals. Explain to them why you do acts of charity so they understand why they should.
  • Teach kids about chores by setting a schedule and having them help you out. Don’t tell your child to do something, but ask for their help. The earlier they learn to help you, the longer they will be willing to.
  • If you want your son or daughter to learn to share, set a good example and share your things with them.

Respect your child’s privacy. Respect their privacy as you would want them to respect yours; for example, if you teach your child that your room is out of boundaries to them, respect the same with their room. Allow them to feel that once they enter their room they can know that no one will look through their drawers, or read their diary. This will teach them to honor their own space and to respect the privacy of others.

  • If your child catches you snooping through his or her things, then it may take him or her a long time to be able to truly trust you again.

Encourage your children to have a healthy lifestyle. It’s important to make sure that your children eat healthy food as much as they can, that they get plenty of exercise, and that they get enough rest every night. You should encourage positive and healthy behavior without harping on it too much or making it seem like you’re forcing your children to eat or act a certain way. Be the adviser, not the dictator. Let them come to these conclusions on their own while helping them see the meaning and importance of a healthy life.

  • One way to encourage them to exercise is to get them to play a sport early on in life, so they find a passion that is also healthy.
  • If you start over-explaining to the child that something is unhealthy or that they shouldn’t get it, they may take it the wrong way and feel like you are condemning them. Once this happens, they may no longer want to eat with you, and they may feel bad eating around you, which could make them want to sneak and hide junk food from you.
  • When trying to enforce healthy eating habits, start it at a younger age. Giving rewards of candy to children may create a bad habit, because once they get older, some may feel they should reward themselves which can lead to obesity. While they are young, start them out with healthier snacks. Instead of chips, try goldfish (crackers), grapes, etc.
  • The eating habits they learn as they are younger are the ones they continue to have. Emphasize on finishing their plates, and teach them to take a small portion at a time; they can always take more afterwards, but they can’t put food back after it has been on their plate.

Emphasize moderation and responsibility when it comes to alcohol consumption. You can start talking about this even when children are young. Explain that they will have to wait until they are old enough to enjoy a drink with friends, and talk about the importance of designated drivers. Failure to discuss these issues early sometimes contributes to sneaking and dangerous experimentation, if they don’t understand.

  • Once your friends get to an age where they and their friends start drinking alcohol, encourage them to talk about it with you. You don’t want them to fear your reaction and to end up doing something regrettable, like driving drunk because they’re too scared to ask for a ride.

Allow your kids to experience life for themselves. Don’t make decisions for them all the time; they must learn how to live with the consequences from the choices they make. After all, they will have to learn to think for themselves sometime. It’s best they start when you are there to help minimize the negative consequences and accentuate the positive ones.

  • They need to learn that their own actions have consequences (good and bad). By doing so, it helps them to become good decision makers and problem solvers so that they are prepared for independence and adulthood.

Let your children make their own mistakes. Life is a great teacher. Don’t be too quick to rescue your child from the results of their own actions if the consequences are not overly severe. For example, cutting themselves (in a minor way) may hurt, but it’s better than leaving them unaware of why sharp objects should be avoided. Know that you can’t protect your children forever, and they’re better off learning life’s lessons sooner than later. Though it can be hard to stand back and watch your child make a mistake, this will benefit both you and your child in the long run.

  • You shouldn’t say “I told you so” when your child learns a life lesson on his own. Instead, let your child draw his own conclusions about what happened.
  • Be there for your child when he makes a mistake, whether big or small. By not preventing every little issue but providing helpful guidance to let them work through the effects, you can help teach them problem-solving and coping skills. Throughout this process, be supportive and helpful; just don’t do it for them or isolate them from the real world.

Give up your vices. Gambling, alcohol and drugs can jeopardize your child’s financial security. Smoking, for example, almost always introduces health hazards to your child’s environment. Second-hand smoke has been linked to several respiratory ailments in children. It could also contribute to the early death of a parent. Alcohol and drugs might also introduce health hazards or violence to your child’s environment.

  • Of course, if you enjoy having some wine or a few beers now and again, that’s perfectly fine, as long as you model healthy consumption of alcohol and responsible behavior while you do it.

Don’t place unreasonable expectations on your child. There’s a difference between wanting your child to be a responsible, mature individual and forcing your child to be perfect or to live up to your idea of what perfect should be. You shouldn’t push your child to get perfect grades or to be the best player on his soccer team; instead, encourage good study habits and good sportsmanship, and let your child put in the effort that he is capable of.

  • If you act like you only expect the best, your child will feel like he or she may never measure up, and may even rebel in the process.
  • You don’t want to be the person that your child is afraid of because he feels like he will never measure up. You want to be a cheerleader for your child, not a drill sergeant.

Know that a parent’s work is never done. Though you may think you have already molded and raised your child into the person he or she will become by the time your child dons his or her graduation cap, this is far from true. Your parenting will have a life-long effect on your child and you should always give your child the love and affection he needs, even if you’re hundreds of miles away. While you won’t always be a constant daily presence in your child’s life, you should always let your children know that you care about them and that you’ll be there for them, no matter what.

  • Your children will still turn to you for advice, and will still be affected by what you say no matter what age they are. As the years go on, you can not only improve your parenting techniques, but you can start to think about how to be a good grandparent!


This is Part 3 of How to Be a Good Parent

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