Abraham Lincoln once said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Growing this tree well is a lifelong investment for parents, for tangible benefits through your child’s character.
The term character sounds Victorian in its own right. Even Victorian texts were always quick to categorise people according to their status in society as can be seen in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights when Heathcliff, a poor orphan, comes back with Mr Earnshaw and is given a bad reception by the Earnshaw household and, all in all, painted as a negative character simply because he has no standing in society.
However, before you raise an eyebrow and narrow your eyes and say the Victorian period ended at the turn of the 20th Century, know this. Victorians didn’t just start the understanding of a good character. Rather, they highlighted the importance of it and served it on a silver platter to the world. Has the world taken any notice, is the real question here.
Street crime has increased and the culprits seem to be getting younger and younger as the number of crimes increase. Who is to be blamed for this? Peer pressure? Schools that did not give feedback to parents when their children began acting out? Or parents who never took the time to draw attention to the importance of a good character?
The importance of a good character
The importance of a good character in a person spells R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Good character embeds positive ness and confidence within a person. There is nothing more impressive than a person who goes for a job interview and displays a fine character. Studies have shown that people have been hired on more occasions due to displays of good character than the excellent academic qualifications they may possess.
The challenge of it all
It is no easy feat to teach a child right from wrong but an easy way is to lead by example. In wanting a child to be truthful, honest, trustworthy, forgiving and respectful, what better way to teach than to display these characters yourself? Jenny Otto, 22, remembers watching her mother helping out around noon on certain days in a soup kitchen for the homeless in New York City when she was around 5-years-old.
By the time she was in high school, she knew what her free time would be busied up doing – filling tummies with bowls of soup.
Another way of ‘funning’ the building of your child’s character is to engage them in charity, for example, helping out in aged homes, visiting orphanages and playing with the children and visiting cancer-stricken children in hospitals. By engaging in such activity, not only is your child’s character being built, but the bond between you and your child is being strengthened as you spend your weekend with your child.
Now, before you sit your little cupcake down for a lesson on morals, values and just about everything else, know this. Some kids may possess good characteristics out of nature. Some children would willingly share their things while others may whine and pout about it. At times, stealing and lying turn out to be a dare a child has within himself. Explain to your child clearly the effects of such actions.
Songs of Praise
Never be stingy with words of praise when little Josiah, or little Erica, has done something praiseworthy. If Erica has come to you and told you the truth that yes, she did hide her little brother’s toy, instead of yelling your head off on impulse, thank her for the honesty and slip in a gentle reprimand for the action of the ‘toy hiding’.
If Erica has made the bed or fed the family rabbit without being asked to, a pat on the back and a praise word should be given. After all, a little praise goes an extremely long way.
Camping – The Wild in the Wild
If a sit-down explanation is something you can’t have with your child, try a camping trip. Camping trips have been proven as character building events. Pitching a tent, cooking food and keeping the campsite clean are just some of the activities that teach a child responsibility, confidence and even self-control.
Not only is your child’s character being developed but memories are being made as well.
If your little one finds the idea of character building a bore, change the format you are delivering it to her in. What might grab attention would be donning a superhero costume and pretending to be a certain character trait for the weekend.
For example, ‘Super-Responsible-Man’ might be one identity you can adopt where you take your little one and go around the house fixing whatever that needs fixing, and cleaning pets’ cages. You can even use your little one as your sidekick!
The importance of building your child’s character should never be pushed away because of age or anything else. A child knows right from wrong from a young age and leading him down the right path will be fruitful for him in life later.