Updated: Jan 4
Helping our children develop in character was always one of the ultimate goals we had in our homeschool from the very beginning. My disclaimer for this post is that we are all works in progress and my children's journeys are still works in progress (as is my own). There is no 'you have arrived!' sign that flashes up when you are helping your child develop in character...from a parent's point of view, it is an ongoing commitment you make to help your kiddos - no matter their age. Of course as they get older, there are new challenges in communicating your help to them but that's a whole other post entirely.
When I talk about 'character development', I'm meaning ways that we can intentionally help shape our children into kind, compassionate, empathetic, honest, courageous, resourceful people with integrity. For us, faith informs the way that we relate to others and we wanted to share this with our children. We also wanted to be able to help them through challenges that they may have in their learning, their relating to others, their understanding of themselves as we help them navigate their way in the world.
What does 'developing character' mean?
Unlike an academic concept, character development isn't something you just read about in a textbook and hope to absorb. From our experience, it has been much more about encouraging those things that you can't really see inside of your child. Homeschooling (aka doing life together!) provides us with many opportunities each day to help our children reach their most full and beautiful potential. It has also meant living out our own development of character in front of our kiddos.
What can 'developing character' look like?
Let's take a board game as an example of a learning activity that can lead us to have a moment to encourage our child's character. Say the kids start setting up the game. You know it's one that has been the source of contention in the past. Maybe, together, you have a refresher of the rules of the game. You might remind everyone that last time there were issues with rudeness and impatience. You might even ask everyone to commit to trying to work through the game kindly. When everyone agrees, the game begins. Maybe you are playing alongside the kids, modelling kind words to say, or helpful phrases to use when things don't go your way. Then, perhaps, someone gets angry and starts saying awful things. This might be an opportunity to remind that person about how to play fairly and treat others with respect. It may also be a time where that person who is struggling can be given the opportunity for them to self-regulate. If they've forgotten how, again, a parent can be there to give them a helping hand with some suggestions if necessary. It might lead to someone acknowledging that they'd lost their temper, having had a chance to cool down and maybe that has led to an apology and an encouragement of restoration of relationship.
There are plenty of moments each day to work on encouraging the best in our kiddos. This was just one example - playing a board game. But each day there will be things we can do to help our kiddos be their true, authentic selves whilst they also learn to be kind to others, be truth-tellers, be good self regulators, be compassionate and as they serve others too. There are so many other things (too many to list here - but I love that Sally and Clay Clarkson listed many of these and more in their 24 Family Ways book. Well worth the read). Work out the virtues that are important to you and then intentionally commit to encouraging your children to develop those.
Practical ideas for 'developing character'
* Sit down as a family and talk about character traits you think should be valued. Discuss why you believe these are important - don't expect your child to have the same conviction about this. But explain to them why you value it.
* Keeping communication open, clear and gentle is obviously the goal when we are trying to get our kiddos to grow in virtuous ways but as we all know - no one is perfect. Whenever we aren't as calm as we can be, we get the chance to apologise and explain why we were in the wrong. We get to troubleshoot the situation with our kiddos. This in and of itself is a great way to develop character - firstly in ourselves and then as an example to our kids. Showing them how you humble yourself after things go pear-shaped gives them the tools to do so in the future too.
* Sometimes it helps to have a little outside help too in bringing out the best in ourselves and our kiddos. These Outschool Classes* on character development look to be very helpful and well worth a look into if you needed some help in this area.
More soon, Lusi x *Sometimes I use affiliate links in my posts.
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