Accentuate the positive!

Step 1. Accentuate a character trait
The first step to teaching any new character trait is simply to accentuate it. Get your child to describe what the word means to them, and use the word in conversation often. You take responsibility for your sports stuff in the morning. Try to harp on the negative: “Why are you so irresponsible about tidying your room?”

Step 2. Tell the value and meaning of the trait
The second step to teaching a character trait is to discuss why it is important to learn. Don’t assume your child has an understanding of what you mean by respect or honesty. Discuss it as a family. Here are some ways to start the discussion.

  • Watch your child’s favourite television programme, and discuss the character’s choices. “Was Hannah honest with Lily about the party?”
  • Discuss news items. Hand the paper to your older child suggesting they read a particular article, then talk about the traits displayed by politicians or sports heroes.
  • Share your belief. Explain why you think that particular character traits are better than others.

Step 3. Teach what the trait looks and sounds like
Make a concerted effort to follow through in your actions and words. If you expect your child to treat you with respect, treat others with respect yourself.

Step 4. Provide effective feedback
The final step to teaching any character trait is to reinforce to behaviour as soon as convenient. Doing so helps clarify to your child: “You’re on the right track. Keep it up.” or “Almost but this is what to do instead.” Here are a few reminders about giving effective feedback:
  • Use constructive criticism. “This is what you did right.” If the behaviour was wrong tell him what to do make it right: “What you did was not right, but this is what you can do next time.”
  • Catch positive behaviours. Look for opportunities to “catch them doing the trait right.” When you reinforce character behaviours done correctly, children are more likely to repeat the behaviour.
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