Teaching Character Recap: Why Is it Important?

by kate on April 26, 2021

One of my favorite quotes from Pulp Fiction is when The Wolf says: just because you are a character doesn’t mean you have character.

Sometimes I think I’m raising children who are characters. I mean, what with all the crying and hurling onto the floor. Granted, I’ve got preschool age children, so a bit of dramatic flailing and hurling about is par for the course - but it was one particular tantrum sparked by the wind blowing hair across my 4 year old’s face that I thought: grit. This girl needs some grit!

But how to teach grit?

When I read about a school in New York City that is incorporating character lessons into the curriculum in inventive ways, I knew I needed to understand a little more about teaching character to children. Specifically, my children.

It’s safe to say that most parents want to raise kids to have a successful life. Now, everyone defines successful in different ways but I’d venture to say a common thread of success is high achievement and high satisfaction in (fill in the blank).

Now, what if you could predict success? That’d be pretty cool, huh?

Working with researchers, top administrators at the NYC school narrowed down a handful of character traits (strengths, if you will) that actually work as decent predictors of whether or not their students enrolled in - and finished! - college. That was their definition of success for the students.

Wanna know what those strengths are? Zest, grit (!), self-control, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism and curiosity.

Not intelligence. Not grade point average.

It didn’t matter their smarts as much as putting those smarts to use.

Only these types of performance characteristics don’t fully embody character. They address only one side; there is a moral component as well…as in being a good person. Ethics. That’s a little more squishy to define.

Things like love, kindness, appreciation of beauty, spirituality - these reside in the moral compass zone of character traits. Yet equally important to imbue in little minds.

As a parent of two vastly different little girls - girls who seem to come fully equipped with many of these character traits while at the same time completely in need of, shall we say, guidance in other areas - I think it’s immensely helpful to break down these certain strengths and figure out how to approach them in every day, common sense ways.

Also, as a mom, paying attention to my own strengths and how I model those teaches me about staying connected with how I’m doing personally as a mom and a woman.

Unfortunately, in our hectic lives, we can check out emotionally. Go on auto pilot. We either tend to the big dust ups and ignore (or electronically lobotomize) the rest. Not only in ourselves but in our children, too. Stopping to consider how nature focuses the mind or teaches perseverance makes you stop. And consider. And focus.

So far, I’ve covered 12 out of the list of 24 character strengths as outlined in the New York Times article, which is as good as a resource as any on character. There is, of course, an 800+ page tome on the subject, which I’m slowly getting through…but that’ll take me a while. In the meantime…

Also, I wanted to share a few great comments we’ve been getting on this series!

Mommy with a Selective Memory on curiosity: This is so true! It is so important to really listen to the question instead of just murmuring mmm hmmm….I just came across this wonderful quote from Eleanor Roosevelt the other day and it fits perfectly:
I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity.

Sonia’s Goodie Bags on love: My husband and I are fairly good at modeling love for our children….but, I do wonder if that “love” word isn’t used too often nowadays. Of course, I don’t mean within a family or with good friends. I’m referring to casual friends, especially within Social Media as in FB posts etc….. Anyone else think so, too?

Busy kids=happy mom on humor: We absolutely love jokes! I put a joke daily into my kid’s lunch. When they were learning how to read, everyone would pass them around the lunch table. So much fun. Laughter is good medicine!

Kristen’s Cute Beltz on patience: I have become more patient since I have been a mom, but I have a long way to go! I think it is taught by example and I’m not the best example, but I’m working on it. Painting and gardening, great ideas to teach patience will test it out! Let you know what happens.

Emily (CityBabyLiving.com) on creativity: Boredom…it’s a 4 letter word around my house. My 4.5 yo daughter can’t stand to be bored and I’m her #1 person to ask for entertainment help. I try my best to suggest a few things and step back. She eventually gets into something and I love to watch her work out relationships with her doll house or make an entire page of sticker art. When it comes to creating art, she has a drawer that she can do anything with – the messier (within reason) the better.

How about you? Do you think about teaching character or is character something that materializes out of living life?

photo credit: Alex Portes Design

Related Posts with Thumbnails
If you like this article, please subscribe to our RSS feed follow us on Twitter, or find us on Facebook.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ruby T. April 26, 2021 at 8:35 am

Zest and grit are great words, and in short supply in our children for the most part these days. With tv, and gaming devices and fear of going out to play alone we have insulated our kids to a point where they are not interested in exploration of their surroundings; who don’t know how to create their own fun if it isn’t spoon-fed to them; and who run to a parent to dust them off when they fall down or fail at trying something new.

Wow, I sound old, but I do think we could give our kids the gift of “zest” and “grit” if we treated them as cowboys and gave them free rein to get out in the world and wrangle some ornery steers for themselves. (That was a weird analogy.)

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: