The Importance Of Character Education
A respected New York Times reporter is fired for plagiarism. Another is fired for just making his stories up. Your children are asking questions about why politicians keep calling each other liars. Your children want to know why bad guys flew airplanes into the World Trade Center, and why we have young men overseas shooting people who may or may not be associated with those bad guys. And why the little girl in his class dresses like the bad guys. Your child comes home crying because his teacher called him stupid. All these things can be addressed with character education. The things your child experiences every day impact his forming character, and it is your job as a parent to ensure that it impacts it in the right way. Character education is not based on reading your child Bible stories, nor is it based strictly on your behaving in front of your child as you want him to behave, though these things are important. Rather, character education is something that happens to your child whether you are around or not; the simple fact is, though you (and your close family) are the most important person in your child's life, unless you home school, by the time he's six he spends most of his waking time around people who are not you. Therefore, it's important for you to teach your child character education by actually talking about it. But what do you talk about? How do you approach it? First, talk about choices. In Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack chose to climb the beanstalk. You can point that out in every children's story; good or bad, the characters created the story out of their choices. Talk to your child about what good and bad choices are, how to make them, and how important it is to actually choose. Talk about doing the right thing, always, even when it hurts. Your character is shaped by your actions, not what you say; if you talk about never lying and then you go and tell a whopper, you're damaging your character even if you never get caught. Talk about what other people do - remember mom's old saying about "if your friends jumped off a cliff?" Just because other kids around your child behave badly doesn't mean he needs to do the same. Remind them that they always have a choice, and though sometimes the right choice is hard to make it's important to make that choice. And then put it all in action. Take your child volunteering - perhaps to the retirement home up the street, where she can read stories to older people who can't see well anymore. Or collecting cans for the hungry, volunteering at the animal shelter, or picking up trash along the street. Best of all, encourage your child to come up with his or her own special project to help people, and then teach him how to implement it. Don't do the work for him, but act as a resource, guide, and chaperone. And try to have fun doing it. Just because you're doing good works doesn't mean you can't play a little too! Above all, remember that the most important person in your child's character education is you.
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