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Developing Character in Kids

I had an abrupt wakeup call last week when I read Adam and Allison Sweet Grant’s article Stop Trying to Raise Successful Kids and Start Raising Kind Ones. If we want the kids in our lives to grow up to be kind adults we need to show them that we value kindness just as much as we value other kinds of achievement.

As the dad of three kids in middle school I try hard to talk with my kids about their day, their experiences, and how they are doing academically and socially. Music is important to our family and is probably the area I’m most “tiger mom” about. For my wife it’s math. We talk about their grades each day as well as their music practice. What we haven’t talked much about are their daily experiences with developing kindness and good character.

I recently wrote about my goal this year to do a good deed daily. After counseling together as a family, we decided our daily good deeds would be the first thing we discuss after returning home each day. Making service and kindness top of mind in my life has changed my daily experiences, and I hope it does the same for my kids too.

The early results have been fun. Yesterday we had a great conversation about whether or not letting a classmate look at your test paper for an answer is a good deed or not. We’ve heard how our kids sat with friends at lunch they haven’t talked to in a while and reached out to students they didn’t know who were sitting alone. I even have renewed hope that my kids will finally learn the dying art of holding the door open for people!

This won’t be a short term project, just as doing well in math or learning an instrument aren’t short term projects. Our actions are a daily vote for the person we want to be and who we will become. Make sure that character development is part of our daily vote!

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