We can all agree that educating young children to read, write, and perform arithmetic is critical to success in life. As parents and teachers we invest our time and effort in exposing children to letters, words, and numbers in order to prepare them for their adult lives.
As world demands increase, however, we know that our children need “a little more” in order to achieve this desired success. We can give them “a little more” by modeling and teaching them the process of building solid character. Character is simply thinking and acting by doing what is right. It isn’t always easy. It is, however, beneficial. Research indicates that positive character traits are the foundation of success in academics, home life, and the work world.
Character development begins at home and extends into the early school years with the three main character-building themes of respect, responsibility, and persistence. These three themes cross over from home to school quite easily.
Respect is initiated at home when parents teach their children to listen and follow through when asked to do simple tasks. Parents can model respect by establishing themselves as the authority figures responsible for the family’s welfare. Respect follows the same pattern at school. Students are required to address their teachers by Miss, Mr., or Mrs., perform the required academic tasks as directed, and communicate by raising hands and taking turns.
Responsibility starts at home as well. Establishing house rules early on is a great beginning. Give your children tasks they must complete on a regular basis – make the bed in the morning, pick up toys when playtime is finished, or set the table. As the child is ready to take on more responsibility, feeding the family pet can be added to the list. Children who have mastered routine jobs at home have a much easier entrance into school. They are able to follow classroom routines, have success with homework completion, and know how to ask for assistance when instructions are not clear to them. These are traits that travel with them through the grades as they learn to make good choices, act as solid citizens, and take on leadership roles.
Persistence (working hard for a future reward) is probably the most difficult character trait to instill in some children. Young children enjoy playing so much that giving up play time to do a required chore often results in resistance and defiance. Parents need to discuss with their youngsters the importance of working hard – sacrificing immediate pleasures for long term goals. Modeling is the best teaching method – partner with your child through difficult tasks. Praise the child for the persistence and highlight the end result. As with responsibility, children who are already familiar with the process of working toward long term goals, have an easier time negotiating through difficult academic tasks. In the school environment, teachers will offer various strategies to achieve success – praise, sustained encouragement, peer mentoring or tutoring. Children learn to equate the persistence involved with their hard work to achieving academic success.
The themes of respect, responsibility, and persistence are the keys to successful adult lives. When these themes are promoted both at home and in school, our children are given the maximum opportunity to develop their individual potential for happy, healthy, successful adult lives.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion.