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Character building - the responsibility of parents
Character building starts at home
Theodore Roosevelt stated: “To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”
Building good character is the most important responsibility of parents. To vest this responsibility on the school or the church is like shunning your responsibility. The school, the church, the society at large, all do play a part in reinforcing what is taught at home, thereby laying the emphasis on parents to build the character of their child. Children today are assailed by so much negative influence through the media and from their peers that if they do not have proper grounding they might soon find themselves in moral and legal trouble. Schools are not safe havens anymore with bullying, substance abuse and shootouts becoming commonplace. One cannot be sure what their child is learning from these environs and influences. One thing that you can be sure about is that when you make the effort to mould and shape your child’s character, your child knows the right from wrong.
Character building - a process
The word Character comes from the Greek word ‘Chassein’ meaning to ‘inscribe or engrave’ as on wax tablets or metal surfaces. Thus to build good character is to engrave on or inscribe in the hearts of children the values they need to live by.
Good character does not happen naturally. It needs to be built brick upon brick, a process that every parent and child have to go through. Building character happens by purposeful teaching, modelling by parents, by guidance and putting what has been learned to practice. It is the nurturing of better qualities in the child and it is a matter of education of the heart. As parents, if we could teach our children not only the six tenets of good character but also the values that help build their lives we would make their lives richer in every way.
The six tenets of good character
Respect: Good manners and good behaviour are not ways to get by in society but they are what define you for who you are. This is taught by the way parents behave at home. Respect begets respect. It also helps build the quality of tolerance while learning to appreciate the differences. Teaching your child to respect others could be the first step to a tolerant and peaceful society.
Integrity: Teaching your children to be honest and to stand up for what they believe in would be one of the greatest assets that you can give your child. It is easy to preach to your child about not lying or stealing but children should be able to understand the value of what is being taught. Leading by example would be an effective way of teaching integrity or trustworthiness.
Responsibility: This is a quality that I believe a child needs to be taught from the time he/she starts to play. Just saying, “Oh now we are done with playing let us put the toys back” is enough to get the message across to your six month old. Very often parents are over indulgent and take over responsibilities of their child by acting on their behalf. You deprive your child of a great a quality that draws the line between failure and success. Teaching children to do their best and to be accountable for their words and actions is an important step to character building.
Caring and Empathy: These are qualities that enable your child to live as a social being. It helps them contribute to the society and groups they interact with, in a meaningful manner. If we could inculcate qualities such as being considerate towards others, being grateful, willing to forgive others etc., we would see a society that treats people with the love and respect they deserve.
Fairness: Children need to be taught even from a very young age to respect rules. It is important as members of a society to go by the rules. Grabbing and greediness should be discouraged while encouraging positive behaviour like sharing and fair play. Blaming others for their faults should not be entertained. Parents could unknowingly teach their children to blame their dissatisfaction on unhappiness on the environment or people around just to appease them. Take care what you say to your child and make sure that your child understands the reason for which he/she is being disciplined or punished. As parents we need to be fair in the way we treat our children if we expect to be fair in their dealings.
Loyalty: Loyalty to one’s family, school, society or country should be inculcated from the time children are very little. This quality of loyalty would teach children the value of belonging to a unit and enjoying the benefits of team or group living. It also teaches the child to respect rights and responsibilities.
Other values that help build good character
Patience: Patience is a virtue and a hallmark of good character. When a child is taught to be patient and wait calmly, the child learns a certain amount of self discipline and the ability to exert his will power. Seeking instant gratification leads to many problems which include lying, stealing and later on to problems such as substance abuse, kleptomaniac tendencies etc., so that they could indulge themselves.
Perseverance: Even as a child learns to play with his stacking toy, the first lesson of perseverance is inculcated. Helping children to understand that hard work is what gets them good results, could bring about a great change in the way the younger generation looks at hard work. Encouraging and supporting them to independently handle these tasks is important to inculcate the quality of perseverance. This is a crucial lesson for life that needs to be instilled by parents who never stop expecting the best out of their wards.
Independence: Many parents believe that they show their love and affection to their child by doing everything for them. This discourages the child from being independent and makes the child cling to the parents. Though this might seem like love, it actually prevents the child from developing a sense of autonomy. The more independent your child is the better is his coping skills and his adaptation to life.
Encouraging curiosity and initiative: Instilling in your child the desire to learn and to be curious about the things around him makes your child open minded and ready to learn. Learning is a never ending process and those children who learn to teach themselves learn to live smarter.
Building character - The part parents play
Parenting your child is your responsibility. Delegating the responsibility to a nanny or grandparents just isn’t enough. They can only be what they are. As a parent you are the only one who can build your child’s character and make them responsible and good citizens. Here is what you can do as parents to help build character in your children.
Being a good example or modelling is an effective way to teach your child good values. Telling them not to lie or cheat while you do those things yourself is not going to work. Your child picks up from example and imitates because that is how children learn.
Be aware of the influences in your child’s life: Be alert and listen while keeping your eyes and ears open to know what is happening in their little world. Watch the programs that your child might be watching on the internet or TV so that you know what is happening in your child’s mind.
Communicate clearly : Setting the rules is not enough, your child needs to know what is right and what is wrong and your language and your tone tells your child whether you approve of their behaviour or not. Clarity of expression and meaning what you say is of prime importance. “No” should mean “no” and not “maybe”. These things set the groundwork for further disciplining.
Discipline: Discipline does seem like a hard thing when you have to enforce it to your child. You could positively discipline your children by teaching them good habits. Children also need to be taught the limits. Discipline is what helps them to comply with the rules and not stray out of it.
Being involved with your child’s school activities: As a parent it is so important to be involved with your child’s school life. Leaving everything to the hands of the teachers could mean that you have relinquished your responsibilities. This is commitment to helping your child be his best.
Make family the center: The problem today is that families are unable to hold their children any longer. Making family activities the heart and the soul of a child’s life could make your child secure and self contained even as an adult. A child understands that this is the place to seek help and it would be given unconditionally.
Character building is about commitment to make your child’s future happy and secure. It is showing them the way that you as an adult have learnt through experience. Building the character of your child is in your hands and it is your responsibility to make your child the best he/she could be.