Life Skills – How to Teach Kids Character

When we talk about character, we are not referring to characters in a story.  We are talking about certain positive qualities in a person.  Character encompasses many things: respect, honor, honesty, integrity, and courage.  These qualities are all different but are also related.  Someone with strong character embodies all of these. In this post, we will discuss how to teach kids character.

Strong character leads to success in the long term.  Short term gain can be achieved through cheating, lying, or lack of integrity.  However, the lack of character will eventually catch up to you and have a detrimental impact on your future.

How to teach kids character encompasses many areas
How to teach kids character encompasses many areas

Teachers and parents work hard trying to instill good character in kids at an early age.  When kids get older and approach the teenage years, this gets much more difficult.  Being respectful and honest are easily thrown to the wayside in favor of popularity and peer pressure.

It is imperative we continue to teach kids about character early in life and continue as they get older.

As I outlined in Part 1 of this series, the 4 steps to teaching kids life skills are: define the word, discuss what the definition means, use examples, and discuss why it is important.  If you need more detail on the process, please go back and read Part 1.

Let’s apply the process to character.

  • Define the word/topic in words they understand
    • Character means “Displaying the qualities of honesty, courage, and integrity.”
    • During this step, simply have the kids repeat the definition after you 3-5 times.  Do this 2-3 times during the week.
  • Discuss what the definition means in more detail
    • Display good character:  keep promises, don’t cheat, do the right thing, and be responsible are all elements of having strong character.  Be sure to display qualities like these all the time in order to have good character.
    • Be/have role models: find someone who has strong character and try to be like them.  It could be a parent, sibling, teacher, friend, leader, pastor, etc.  Be sure to display these qualities and eventually you will be a role model to someone else.
    • Be polite/have good manners:  people with strong character say “please” and “thank you”.  They say, “excuse me”.  They hold doors open for others and think of others at all times.
    • During this step, have the kids repeat the definition after you 3-5 times then have a short discussion on the topics above.  Do this 2-3 time during the week.
  • Use examples in everyday life
    • Example of character in karate:  one of the ways karate helps build strong character is through respect.  Respect for others means you treat them how you would want to be treated.  There are many ways we show respect in karate such as bowing, being on time, wearing our uniforms a certain way, and following the rules.  Every time we do one of these things, we strengthen our character.
    • Example of character at school/home: one way we can help build character when at school or at home is by being responsible.  Doing chores at home when asked such as cleaning your room, taking out the trash, or doing the dishes will build character.  Completing homework on time to the best of your ability also will help give you strong character.  A person with good character is someone other people can count on.
    • During this step, have the kids repeat the definition after you 3-5 times then have a short discussion on the topics above.  Feel free to replace the examples with ones of your own.  Substitute a different activity for karate if they don’t practice karate.  Be sure to ask them for an example first before providing yours.  Do this 2-3 time during the week.
  • Discuss why it is important
    • Why is it important to have character?  Having strong character is essential in order to be successful in life.  People who lie, cheat, steal, or are irresponsible cannot be counted on to do anything.  There may be some short term success but having poor character will always catch up to you causing you to have an unsuccessful, lonely, unhappy life.
    • During this step, briefly go over all steps 1-3 before going into this step.  Be sure to ask the kids why they think it is important before providing them with the answer.  Do this 2-3 times during the week.
Strong character covers many different things
Strong character covers many different things

Remember, it only takes less than 5 minutes, 2-3 times a week to go through these steps.  Feel free to comment or contact me with questions.

Stay tuned for my next post which will be on how to teach kids about attitude.

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