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Thoughts on Parenting : Children’s Characters

1 May 2007

Over the past few years, I’d say my biggest concern for my kids are : What kind of character will they have?

The question continually plagues me. Sometimes I stay awake at night, wondering why the boys behave the way they do. Why did they react like that? How did they develop THAT behaviour? When did I first see it? Did I do something to cause it? Did I NOT do something?

The question has forced me to look at myself and grimace : What kind of character do I have?

Because as I watch my 4 year old go about doing things, I see some scary things – he’s just like me. Ok not exactly like me. But I see very strong threads of my own characteristics in his behaviour. The good and the bad. It’s freaky.

I see a lot of aspects in his personality that – I know from experience – will get in the way of other aspects.

For example. I was a very cautious child. As a kid, I used to be proud that I had never broken a single bone in my body – no broken ankle, arm or wrist. Never had any stitches. I’ve never stepped on a bee, got stung by a jelly fish, fallen out of a tree, wandered too close to slippery rocks.

I was suitably adventurous, sociable, and all that – but when it came to taking a risk, I was overly calculative and cautious. I always considered the consequences – and while that sounds like a valuable trait to have – I didn’t take many risks. I didn’t step very far from my comfort zone.

It took me ages to coach myself past that way of thinking. I think there’s a huge degree of intellectual and emotional laziness associated with it, as well as the need to be in control, and the need for stability. But I’m no psychologist, I don’t know what all this means – I just know how to work around it in my life.

To this day, I regularly have to wake myself up with a kick in the butt, drag my sorry self away from my bubble of contentment, and force myself to do something out of the ordinary.

Which leads me to : How can I help my kids develop good characteristics in the first place?

I racked my brain thinking of activities and practical lessons for my children – different ways to contrive situations to encourage good character traits. How can I teach them about generosity? Friendliness? Honesty? Determination? Self-control? Integrity? Optimism?

In the end – the truth hurts. I should work on my own character first. I should work towards displaying these traits in my own life. It’s leading by example in the little everyday things. It’s making good character a good daily habit.