By Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT – Smile Notes –
Building Character in Children – Learning About Sharing, Honesty, Confidence, and Being Nice
In my children’s book, “Nicholas’ Values: A Child’s Guide to Building Character” (HRD Press, www.hrdpress.com/sharonscott), I use true stories about animals who have good character traits such as sharing, honesty, confidence, and being nice. There is one chapter on being involved-how even children can do things to help other people, animals, the environment, etc. I think it’s important for children to have empathy and that is learned when one attempts to help others.
Developmentally, we know that young children are wrapped up in their own world. It’s important that we teach them to be grateful for what they have as well as demonstrate and teach ways that they can make a difference.
Chapter 3 in my book tells the true story about a Boxer dog in Rogers, Arkansas named Trudi who regularly visited a nursing home, the local hospital, and a children’s shelter. Trudi’s mom, Rozanne Lovell, dresses her in darling costumes for these well-received visits. It demonstrates the character trait of being involved and then discusses ways that children might be involved. As the story goes on, Trudi became very ill. Even though she was sick, Trudi still wanted to make her visits. Soon those whom Trudi had visited learned of her ill health and began sending her get-well wishes. The residents of the nursing home even bought her a bed so that she could rest, if needed, when she visited there. Moral to the story: we need to be involved like Trudi and those who then helped her.
Often children are only involved in a good cause or endeavor at Christmas time. And all the presents the child receives probably overshadows any good deed the child may have done. It would be good to model yourself as well as teach your child how to get involved in something to make a difference. Perhaps you do some volunteer work at a soup kitchen or teach a Sunday school class or help a neighbor who is going through a rough time. There are things your child can do as well which will be helpful to others-but also helpful in building your child’s sense of self-worth and being kind.
Some of the ideas listed in my book include: help Mother Nature by planting a tree, sweeping an elderly neighbor’s driveway, collect magazine with friends and donate them to a nursing home, make a birdhouse or feed the birds in winter, save pennies and donate to the humane society or other charity, visit or call regularly an elderly relative or someone in a nursing home, pick up litter, save water by turning off the faucet after wetting the toothbrush, etc.
It doesn’t matter what you and your children get involved in… just get INVOLVED! The chance of your child growing up with a sense of entitlement will be slim![Editor’s Note: Sharon Scott’s book "Nicholas’ Values” is must reading for elementary-age children! It’s part of an award-winning, darling five book series she authored to teach children important life skills. See sidebar for information on ordering.] Copyright © 2011, Sharon Scott. No reproduction without written permission from author.
P.S. Please read my other column “Kids Need to Help.”
The guide for parents/educators on how to peer-proof children and teens is Peer Pressure Reversal: An Adult Guide to Developing a Responsible Child, 2nd Ed.
Her popular book for teens, How to Say No and Keep Your Friends, 2nd Ed., empowers kids to stand out,not just fit in!
A follow-up book for teens, When to Say Yes! And Make More Friends, shows adolescents how to select and meet quality friends and, in general, feel good for doing and being good.
Sharon also has a charming series of five books for elementary-age children each teaching an important living skill and "co-authored" with her savvy cocker spaniel Nicholas who makes the learning fun.Their book on managing elementary-age peer pressure is titled Too Smart for Trouble.