The character of a child is not something that they are born with. It is something that they are nurtured and shaped into. There are various factors that go into moulding a child’s character. The very first influence for a child is the parent. After that comes siblings, relatives, friends, neighbours, school, teachers, media and the society at large. However the onus for raising a child of character rests with the parent.
Children go to schools only after the first few formative years of their life. Even before that the child’s character starts to get framed. The most important way in which a child learns values is by observation of what the parent does and by analysing what the parent finds important in life. So, the best way to teach your child values is by example.
Some ideas on how to raise a child of character are listed below:
- Children learn values not just from parents but also from their peers. It is healthy for a child to think, analyse and arrive at their own view of the world. Still, in spite of all the peer pressure, the child will pick up the opinions of her peers only after filtering it through the value system that you have provided. A child is more likely to choose friends who share family life and value systems close in sync with her own, if she has independence and self- esteem.
- The messages that children learn from the media need to be monitored. Television does have a huge negative effect and promotes consumerism, violence and sex. The best way to work around this issue is to monitor the amount of time a child spends in front of the television and also monitor the kind of programs the child watches.
- There can never be two set of values in one house. You cannot scold your 10-year-old for telling a lie while cuddle your four-year-old for sweet little lies. At the same time, you cannot lie to your child or anyone else (at least in front of your child!) regarding anything if you want to teach your child that honesty is the best policy.
- Clearly explain to your child why a particular value is important. Tell them stories and anecdotes to illustrate with examples the importance of a particular value. For example, the story of the boy who cried wolf is a beautiful illustration about why honesty is important.
- Whenever you find your child exhibiting a particular value that is important to you, recognise it and appreciate your child for it. For example, tell your child, “I am happy you were honest with me. You accepted to breaking the cookie jar. Though that was a dangerous thing to do, I appreciate that you spoke the truth.”
- Do not lecture your child. They would resist the value that you are trying to inculcate in them. Rather, teach by example and experiences.
- Read books to your child that speak about the values you are trying to inculcate in them. These books and the topics in them can serve as good conversation starters for family discussions about value systems.