Most childhood education experts agree that building a child's character must begin at preschool age. During this period, children can be easily shaped and guided to learn about what is right and what is wrong, and to learn to live a value-filled life. They can easily absorb and emulate what they see and hear from the adults in their surroundings.
Thus, teaching positive values such as honesty, courage, responsibility, compassion, integrity, self-discipline, self-reliance, kindness, friendliness, tolerance, respect, love, justice and mercy will likely be more effective when the youngsters are at preschool age than when they are at adolescent age.
In today's society where academic achievement and performance is at prominence, the importance of character building seems to have been forgotten. We acknowledge kids' achievements more than we acknowledge their characters. We are more engrossed in finding out our kids' academic performance than imbuing them with positive values, which will build their character and which can enable them to make the right choices in their future lives.
To counterbalance against something harmful and destructive from the environment the child may experience, instilling good human virtues and moral values is of paramount importance. And, early age is an ideal time to do so.
Unlike academic achievement that can be unstable over time, virtues and moral values are consistent throughout the ages. They are the basic foundation of building a child with noble character, a child who is able to discern what is morally correct and incorrect, and a child who can make the right choices.
Home is surely an ideal place for parents to raise children with character. To successfully help build kids' character, parents don't have to be either a child psychologist or a child consultant. What they must do is to be optimistic and have faith in their parental skills, no matter what their educational backgrounds are.
In fact, parents must be aware that they are the best teacher their children have ever had.
Parents certainly have their own typical ways of teaching their kids value systems at home, but they need to understand that simply telling kids the regular dos and don'ts won't yield any optimal results.
Children don't learn the values that make up good character simply by being told about them. They learn instead through observing and then emulating what other people are doing and acting out around them.
Among the many ways parents can use as examples to teach how to live a value-filled life, parental modeling is the best way. That is, parents set an example through their own behavior and actions.
Every day offers countless opportunities for children to emulate what their parents say and do in upholding the values they are teaching their children.
How parents do and accomplish daily routines can show children every value in this life. They can set examples of courteous acts to children like respecting people with different cultures, religions and races, valuing honesty and showing compassion and care when others are grieving.
A note of caution, however, needs a mention here. Consistency in upholding values as demonstrated in what parents say and do every day is important and shouldn't be overlooked.
Parents may teach the importance of valuing honesty, yet never keep their word when they promised children something, like having a picnic on a weekend. They may tell children the value of fairness, yet treat other family members unequally.
If parents do this, their children are likely to emulate and eventually develop these attitudes as well.
Reinforcing positive values can also be done through something that captures a child's interest. Fiction and nonfiction books, folk tales, poems, plays and television shows are some resources that may draw a child's attention.
These resources can exert a considerable influence in building kids' character both negatively and positively. However, with parental guidance and a careful selection of children's literature and TV programs, parents can direct their children to be critical in discerning what is good and what is bad for them.
The writer used to teach English for young learners. She can be reached at [email protected]