Raising a compassionate, caring and moral child has always been one of my priorities as a parent. With Gavin becoming more “aware”, I had been scouring the bookshelves for books on character development in the hopes that reading and learning about morals and values could help him pick up a few himself.
Recently, another series of books on character development was brought to my attention called Code Road. They cover 52 values (divided into four seasons according to the story) over one year. Each value book comes with 8 stories (one for each day of the week, with two stories for the fourth day). The books come with activities that your child is supposed to do during the week that will help him practice that specific value.
Unfortunately, there is no sneak preview so you can’t see inside the book, but they do tell you what activities are included in the books. Looks like an interesting series with only two downsides:
- There are stories from the Bible which may not be appropriate for non-Christian families.
- The stories are seasonal and meant to correspond with your seasons so it doesn’t really apply for families living in the tropics – although this is a minor point.
Each book is $4.65. One season (13 books) is $15.35. One year (52 books) is 36.70. So it’s pretty worth it compared to some of the prices I paid for my other books on character development.
The Parents We Mean to Be
I think it goes without saying that most parents have nothing but the best intentions for their children. Unfortunately, it appears that sometimes the best intentions may actually have a negative impact. According to a review in the Washington Post, the book: The Parents We Mean To Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children’s Moral and Emotional Development, ‘makes the case that parents who are too close to their children may be jeopardizing their children’s moral growth. Doting parents who “get in the habit of doing small things to make [their] children’s lives easier,” such as cleaning up after them, getting deeply involved in their schoolwork and placing children’s “trivial preferences” before their own, he explains, risk making their children “more fragile, entitled, and self-occupied.”‘
I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely guilty of some of these things. This article has also got my radar up for what I can do to undo some of the damage done. Well, author of the book, Richard Weissbourd – child and family psychologist who teaches at Harvard – shares ten tips on his website on how to raise children who care:
1. Instead of telling your children, “The most important thing is that you are happy,” tell them, “The most important thing is that you are kind, and that you are responsible for others.”
2. Help your children appreciate others. For instance:
- Don’t let them treat a store clerk, waitress, or babysitters as if invisible.
- Don’t let your child quit a sports team or school chorus without thinking carefully with them about what it means for the group.
- Don’t let your child simply write off friends he or she finds annoying, or fail to return phone calls from friends or to give other children credit for their achievements.
- Expect your child to help around the house, and to be helpful to neighbors.
3. Expect your children to appreciate you—their relationship with you will be a primary model for their other relationships. That doesn’t mean making yourself the focus. It means not allowing your children to treat you as a doormat, and expecting them to express some modicum of interest about major events in your life and to thank you for your generosity.
4. Don’t focus directly and narrowly on developing your child’s happiness and self-esteem. Instead, support your child’s developing maturity. Maturity, including the ability to manage destructive feelings, to balance and coordinate our needs with others, to empathize, to receive feedback constructively, to be reflective, and to adjust our behavior, is at the heart of both morality and lasting well-being.
5. While it’s important to help children understand and articulate their feelings, be wary of pointing out children’s feelings too frequently or drawing a lot of attention to passing emotional states. Doing these things can cause children to dramatize their feelings, and to make their own feelings too precious.
6. Praise your children for specific accomplishments and occasionally tell them how great they are. But avoid constant praising. When children are praised all the time, they can feel judged all the time. Children may feel patronized by unearned praise. And too much global praise—constantly saying “You’re terrific”—can make children feel that their essential value is on the line in everything they do, causing them to inflate their importance, taking either too much credit or too much blame.
7. Don’t make high achievement the goal of a life. Too much achievement pressure can diminish children’s sense of self, make them less able to care for others, and more likely to experience others primarily as competitors and threats. Make achievement one theme in the large composition of a life. Sort out your own feelings about achievement and status so you don’t send mixed messages or appear hypocritical to children, undermining your authority.
8. Help your child register kindness and unkindness, justice and injustice in the world. Listen carefully, without quickly judging, to your child’s moral questions and dilemmas. Express your own values, and connect them to your child’s experiences and interpretations.
9. Don’t seek to be your child’s friend. You can be very close to your child in many ways, but it’s vital that children experience you as an authority, that they idealize you at certain points in their development and see you as someone they want to emulate. Children come to appreciate others as independent and distinct when we appreciate them as distinct.
10. Invite people you are close to and respect to give you feedback about your parenting. When your first child is born, develop a contract with at least two other parents, a promise that they will tell you if they think you are harming your child’s moral or emotional development in any way.