Developing Character in Children

According to studies, the first 4-5 years of a child’s life are crucial in their development. These are the years that the personality is formed. These are the crucial years for learning. However, a character is something that continues to develop throughout life. It is a compass that guides them in their decision making. It is the part of them that will be judged by others all of their lives.

Will your child act honorably? Will your child make you proud? Will you others compliment you on their outstanding character? Children learn by observation. What is your character like? Please notice that we are not talking about personality. We are talking about the morals, ethics, and convictions by which we speak and act.

Character can be identified in day to day words and actions of people. However, it is best measured by trials. In times of difficulty, our true nature is more evident. This is usually because we are not acquiring an opportunity to perform or make ourselves look good. Kids will reveal more of their character in difficult times. Experiencing trials strengthens character much like stress of working out strengthens our bodies. 

As dads, we want to protect our kids. We want to do for them. We don’t want them to hurt. It kind of goes against our nature to let them deal with it. However, working through and conquering trials does more for their strength. Obviously, we are not going to stand by and watch our kids be injured. However, they need to see that they can handle stressful issues. They need to know that you are there, but you believe in their abilities to rise above a challenge.

It is through their dealing with pain, disappointment, and difficulty that will register the most with observers outside of your family. In the book Raising Men by Eric Davis, he discusses how SEAL Team instructors rate seals in their lowest moments and in their failures. This is when they can know that this individual can still focus on the task or not. He said, “Nobody gives a damn how you act when you are winning”. Not as extreme in most cases, difficulties hone the attention of others. They want to see how you or junior will behave. 

When we observe someone, especially a child that refuses to give up or rises above a bad situation with a sense of honor, it wow’s us. We expect kids to NOT handle frustration and pain as well as an adult. So how do you develop this trait in your children? I wish it was more complex than adopting what they observe. However, that really is the case. They learn through time what is right and wrong. They adopt the values of those they trust. If that example is not clear or reinforced with discussion and correction, they will adopt the mindset and behaviors of society and environment without your guidance. 

So it starts with us. We must square ourselves way. We must get our act together. We also must realize that we ARE setting an example, whether good or bad. We ARE responsible. Knowing this brings a certain frustration to my mind when I see weak parents pon off their kids on a teacher or coach to develop what was their responsibility. I understand that we all face challenges. I know that we all can have different circumstances. However, this is YOUR child. You signed up for this the moment you found out that you would be a parent. 

What can you do to develop your own character as an example for your children? Perhaps you had no dad around or a lousy one. Is it still on you to give your kids what they need? Yes! If you had a great dad, that’s wonderful. If you had no dad or a bad one that sucks. However, regardless of the situation, you know what you had or should have been given. Your performance as a dad does not have to be determined by what you experienced. Wait a minute. I did say that we develop character by example. So what are you going to do? Are you going to make excuses, be a victim, and not give your child the dad he or she needs?

Be determined under conviction and love for your child to give your best. This is a character and a good one for them to observe. Let your children see you rise above disappointment and adversity. You can choose to be the example they need. You either know what to do and/or what NOT to do. What if you screw up? Show a character of owning the mistake, seeking forgiveness, and never quitting. You can do this. They need you to do this. Be the best dad possible.