The Top 3 Character Traits Every Child Should Learn

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No matter how fantastic we are at teaching our children math, science, history and literature, they will never reach their full potential without good character.  The news is littered with CEO’s, politicians and sports stars who have risen to the top of their field only to fall in a terrible heap because they lacked character.  No one could argue with the fact that their lives would have been better if they had just developed the character needed to keep themselves on track.

I want better for my children, don’t you?  But there are so many character traits to teach. There’s patience, self-control, humility, dependability, and loyalty to name a few.  Where should we start?  A few years ago, I was praying about and researching that very thing.  I came up with what I believe to be the top 3 traits.  Without these three traits, none of the other traits will amount to much.  However, with these three traits solidly in place, all the other traits will be easier to learn.

The Top 3 Character Traits Every Child Should Learn

1.  Attentiveness:  “Attentiveness is showing the worth of a person or task by giving my undivided concentration.” — Character First
The person who has learned Attentiveness will look directly at you when you speak.  He will make sure he understands what you are saying.  He will not allow himself to become distracted from what he should be doing, nor will he be a distraction to others.  (Just an aside, I wonder how much more adults would get out of the church service if they learned this character trait. Just saying…)
Why is this the number one trait?  Because if your child does not learn Attentiveness, your child will never be able to be obedient.  How can you successfully obey what you didn’t hear or attend to in the first place?  When you are not attentive, you may desire to be obedient, but you are likely to run off with only part of the directions, or none at all.  In order to properly learn, properly follow directions or properly hear from God, we must be attentive.
Besides, it is just a lot more pleasant to talk to someone who is giving you their attention.  Have you ever tried to talk to someone who continued to type, watch tv, listen to their ipod, slouch or stare off into space?  It isn’t a lot of fun.  It tells me they don’t care about what I’m saying, and that really, they don’t care much about me.  I will quickly shut down a conversation like that.
2.  Obedience:  “Quickly and cheerfully carrying out the direction of those who are responsible for me.” — Character First
Obedience is the second trait I teach, because without it, we will have a miserable year. Without obedience, we will be running in different directions.  We will accomplish nothing and we will be at odds with one another while we do it.  An obedient person does what her authorities ask as long as it is upright.  An obedient person has a cheerful attitude as she does all that she is expected to do and more than she is expected to do.  An obedient child can be trusted.  You know that they will do what you asked simply because you asked it.  An obedient child is also being trained to be instantly obedient to God.
A child who does what you asked, but does it with a lousy attitude is not an obedient child.  It is only when they do what you ask when you ask with a good attitude that they are truly obedient. How our children learn to obey us is how they will obey God.  We can’t expect them to act differently with the One they cannot see than they are acting with the parents they can see.  If they are slow to obey their parents, mark it down, they will be slow to obey the Lord.  And that’s a problem.
3.  Truthfulness:  “Earning future trust by accurately reporting past facts” — Character First
Truthfulness is so vital to every area of our lives.  Without truthfulness, we really don’t have character.  What good is patience if you lie?  How dependable are you if you lie?  And does a liar use self-control?  Not when she is lying.
A truthful person always tells the truth and encourages others to do the same.  A truthful person doesn’t cheat, steal or misrepresent the facts.  A truthful person has the humility to admit when he is wrong.  A truthful person is someone you can trust.
I teach Truthfulness third, because a child who hasn’t learned obedience will not be very likely to see the importance of telling the truth when it hurts.  There are few things as uncomfortable as telling the truth when it makes you look bad.  A child who has learned obedience has been trained to do the right thing even when he doesn’t like it.  His carnal nature has been trained to do hard things.  It may be difficult to tell the truth when a lie seems more comfortable, but he is well trained to walk the more difficult path.
Often, parents unwittingly destroy all their efforts to teach their children truthfulness.  How do they do it?  They teach their kids to always tell the truth, no matter what.  Then they take a “sick day” from work to enjoy a beautiful day, or avoid a phone call by asking their spouse to say they aren’t home, or steal pencils and pens from work.  Kids are watching our examples more than they hear our words.  If we aren’t willing to live a life of character ourselves, we will be unsuccessful in teaching character to our children.
Before we start any new character traits each school year, I review these top three character traits.  I watch over them throughout the year.  All the other character traits stem from having Attentiveness, Obedience and Truthfulness in place.  We look to the Bible for our example in these areas, and we use various other resources to help us train.  One resource that we have enjoyed are the flyers from Character First.  The flyers have definitions, stories and examples of the different character traits.  Amazingly, the flyers also have the first three traits in the same order I have listed here.  Great minds think alike…or something like that.
Have a great day!
Angela
 
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4 Comments

  1. Hopping over from HHM! I'd be interested in some of the activities you do to teach these. I do focus on character traits, but some of my children just refuse to obey with a happy heart…they'll do what I ask, but they won't like it! Maybe you could write a post about it!

  2. Snicker…Welcome to the world of parenting, right? I'm convinced that God gave us 18 years to train our kids because He knew it would take that long for us to drill it into them. Loving persistence and our own example are the most important things in teaching our kids character. There are good tools to help us highlight the character traits we are working on, though. I think a post would be a great idea! Thank you for suggesting it!

  3. It's so true that children absorb more from what you do than what you say.

    I'd also love to see a post on obedience with a happy heart.

    Thank you!

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