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Back to basics: What parents can do to instill strength of character in their child

By Beverley Nah

KUALA LUMPUR, May 13 — In the previous article, we discussed the importance of building good and strong characteristics in young children. In today’s article, we will discuss and explore ways to build a child’s character.

What consists of good character? How do you define if a child has great characteristics? A responsible child? A child who listens well? Or a child who is honest? The answer lies in you.

It is important that you learn and discover who your child is and decide the values that you would want to impart to him or her. From there on, you can build and develop your child to be the person that you want him or her to be.

What are ways that we can use to instill strength of character in your child? 

As a child, I was extremely restless with an extraordinary imagination and limitless energy. With all the pranks and antics that I created, one would think that my parents would have shipped me away to a disciplinary school. Instead, they allowed me to create and discover the little world that I was in, often guiding and explaining to me about the cause and effect of everything that I did. I was encouraged to make mistakes as long as I was responsible and bore the consequences and that I did not go overboard.

As a consequence, I believe that my parents’ teachings has moulded me to be the person I am today. Like them, I strongly hold on to the principal that every cause has an effect and have always imparted this important principal to the children I have taught. Below, I have listed some of the methods and tips that I often use to encourage building good characteristics in my classes.

Focus on the positive

As a parent, we often fear the worst that would happen to our children. Because of our fears and worries, the children are often told “No, you can’t do that”, “That’s wrong” or “Because I told you so.” Instead of emphasising the negativity, switch to the positivity and focus on their strength. Go with “I like how you do that”, “I am proud that you have tried even though you were initially a little bit afraid” or “I’m glad that you did this.” Use questions to encourage them to reflect and think about what they did or are doing.

Encouragement

Most children have almost limitless energy and a curious soul. They want to explore as many things as possible. Telling them not to touch or to sit still and be quiet will only limit their creativity. Instead, encourage them to explore and discover as many things as they want and explain to them about the cause and effect of everything that they do. Even if there are things that you wouldn’t do, do not limit your child. As long as it’s in a safe environment, encourage your child to always try before pushing it away.

Positive reinforcement

Several years ago, I was at my friend’s house when I noticed a positive reinforcement chart stuck to the refrigerator. The chart had a list of things that her kid needed to accomplish within a week. At the end of each week, the kid had to collect a number of stars that my friend had set  aside in order to be rewarded. I was extremely in awe of the chart because it helped my friend teach her kid to be responsible and at the same time, it also taught the child that he had to work hard to accomplish his mission.

This is something that you can try at home, but bear in mind that every chart needs to be different for every child. It doesn’t have to be a just a chart but you could always try different methods to excite your child towards achieving different goals.

However, I have to stress that the rewards given to your child should not always be a gift, but it could also be little things or activities that your child likes, like an ice cream treat or baking time or even a trip to the playground. By encouraging positive reinforcement, you eliminate any negativity in the house and you avoid using punishing your child.

Be a good role model

Children are like parrots. They mimic everything that we do, say, act and behave. To develop and build a certain characteristic in your child, you have to model it to them first and show them how it is done. You need to do what you say. I often hear from my mother that “you don’t do it to others what you don’t want others to do unto you” and these words of wisdom have stuck with me. But the most important thing is that, this mantra has guided me in much of my decision making.

Use different methods

As I have explained earlier, there are many different methods and activities that we can use to develop a child’s character. One method may work for one child but may not for another. Even if one method does work, it may not work for a long period of time. Alternate it with other methods or activities with the same principals.

You have to be creative as it encourages your child to explore and experience different ways of learning. It does sound extremely tiring to be constantly thinking of ways and methods to instil strength of character in your child but when you see them practising what you have preached, you know then that you have done well.

Raising a child can be extremely challenging and daunting at times. With so many issues, it is no wonder that many parents are often stressed out about how they should bring up their child. Channel the negativity into positive thoughts by focusing on the experience of educating your child.

Enjoy every single laughter, giggle, cry and even tantrum as these are part of them growing up and learning about the world. By simply going back to the basics, not only do you encourage your child to see the world through your eyes but you also experience the world through theirs.

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