Developing Character in Children

When my kids were little, I didn’t do anything intentional for developing character in children.  It just kind of happened along the way. As they grew older, I relied on the influence of church and Christian schooling to help mold their characters.

It wasn’t like I didn’t care. I didn’t know how.

This fall, as we began our homeschooling journey, the idea of character education threatened to overwhelm me. I felt a huge burden to be intentional in developing good character traits and habits in my sons. I did a ton of reading and researching and praying on the subject. At the end of that obsession, I’m happy to say I found answers.

What I learned about character education applies to everyone. Not just homeschoolers. Not just moms with young kids. Not just kids. It applies to everyone.  Even me.

character training in children

Focus.

The list of desirable character traits can be huge. Depending on how detailed you want to be about it, it’s easy to list 40 or 50 habits that represent good moral character.

Whether it’s the list of traits I find most lacking in my boys or myself, the list is overwhelming. It would be easy to look at the list, throw my hands up, and yell “it’s impossible ! I quit” before I even start.

(I need to work on diligence.)

It would be easy to get frustrated and feel like I’m doomed to failure before I even start.

(I need to work on optimism.)

The key is focus.

Pick one trait. One habit. One character issue. One thing. Then focus on it daily for 2-3 months.

(I need to work on patience.)

Do.

Regardless of the homeschool character curriculum I looked at, the way you work on a character trait is fairly similar.

  • Words of Wisdom.  For any trait, there will be scripture and quotes on the subject. Meditate on those words to get them deep into your brain.
  • Living Examples. There are stories that will bring a particular habit or character trait to life. Whether it’s a bible story or an inspirational story of a historical figure, the impact is the same. You can draw inspiration from those stories.
  • Object Lessons. Hands on and physical, they can be an eye opener.
  • Daily Practice.  This is the hard one!

Our first trait to work on as a family was attentiveness. It’s not been easy.

Part of how my boys are supposed to learn to pay attention is this thing where I’m not supposed to repeat myself if they didn’t get it the first time. It works, but breaking MY habit of repeating myself has proven difficult.

Yes. Developing character in children impacts you (the adult) as well. It’s a whole-family commitment.

Prioritize.

If you can only pick one trait at a time to work on, it makes sense to go for the biggest possible impact first. The advice of countless homeschoolers is that you should start with

  1. Attentiveness (they can’t obey if they don’t hear)
  2. Obedience (they won’t obey if you don’t teach them)
  3. Truthfulness

Just think how much better your home would be if everyone (including the adults) mastered those three traits.

Instead of being overwhelmed at the idea of 50 traits that you should somehow instill in your kids, take a different view.

One trait at a time.

Three traits a year.

In five years, where would you be? Would it be better than where you are now?

Resources for Developing Character in Children (and you)

There are a ton of ideas and resources available on the web. If you type “character education” into Pinterest, prepare to be overwhelmed.

(Because character and belief are so intimately connected, take time to screen your resources to make sure they match your own belief system and world view.)

Focus on the Family / Kids of Integrity offer FREE lessons for your family.  There is a workbook for each trait that is filled with scripture, bible stories, prayers, crafts and activities.

We used a good portion of their attentiveness workbook this fall. I love how they connect developing a child’s ability to pay attention to their parent to their ability to pay attention to God.

Simply Charlotte Mason offers a workbook called Laying Down the Rails.  It’s not free. I’m not an affiliate. But her approach was a game changer for me.   (Yes, you can get it on Amazon. I could give you an affiliate link for that. But it’s cheaper on the SCM site.)

I’ve loved using the ideas in the workbook to teach my children the hows and whys of attentiveness. I was skeptical, but honestly it works. I can see a difference in the attention span of my kids.

Here’s a sample of the workshop associated with this book. (No, this isn’t Charlotte Mason talking. Her name is Sonya.)

The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days. ~ Charlotte Mason

The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days. ~ Charlotte Mason

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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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Comments

  1. The Dose of Reality says:

    What a fantastic post! When you said, “character education applies to everyone” I was nodding my head so hard I almost got a crick in my neck! SO SO true. It’s not just for folks with little kids or homeschoolers, it applies to all of us. I’m totally checking out “Laying Down the Rails” and I’m pinning this to share it with everyone!! –Lisa

  2. Hi Susan! Great post, I will share it so all my Mama friends can check it out. Oh, and I really like your image with the Charlotte Mason quote, it’s cute!

    • Aw, thanks for the complement on my image. I continue to be inspired by Charlotte Mason’s quotes. I can’t make it through her original writings yet, but the snippets I read in quote form really help me.

  3. This is a great post! Thank you so much for sharing this. I think it’s a great reminder that character education isn’t just for our kids, but for us, too!

    Anastasia Rose
    walk-in-the-rain-with-me.blogspot.com

    • Oh how I wish it was just for my kids! That would be so much easier. :) Continuing to intentionally work on MY character is proving to be one of the more difficult aspects of homeschool.

  4. I love this. A must pin for when my son is older, but I think I need to start working on this for me now. :)

    • You’d be amazed how soon you can start working on some basic character traits. Part of me wishes I’d started when mine were 2. (The rest of me knows I had my hands full with 2 in diapers and there’s no way it would have happened!)

  5. Thank you for these awesome tips! I can really relate to the struggle of teaching myself the habit of not repeating. Dr. Kevin Lehman in his book “Have a New Kid by Friday” claims that repeating is a sing of disrespect to our children–it’s telling them, ‘I think you’re too stupid to get it the first time.’ His point of view really helped me work on my bad habit!

    • That book has been on my nightstand for two years. Someday, I’ll manage to read it.

      In order to establish a habit of listening and attentiveness in my kids, I really did have to break my own nagging habit. We had to come to terms with the fact that they didn’t react until I started yelling. It was hard for all of us, but totally worth it. What started as a character education “thing” as part of a homeschool curriculum turned into a big life changing “thing” for the entire family.

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