Character is defined as “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” Like it or not, adolescents identify with many of the character traits of those close to them. As parents, the behaviors you model, the way you talk, the expectations you have, and the conduct or behaviors you allow will influence your adolescent’s own character development.
Author Dr. Lickona wrote “when we think about the kind of character we want for our children, it’s clear that we want them to be able to judge what is right, care deeply about what is right, and then do what they believe to be right—even in the face of pressure from without and temptation from within.” Character education generally begins at home. However, it should be noted that peers, media, social interactions with authority figures, and other societal factors sometimes influence an adolescent’s character development as well.
As adolescents mature, we hope that they will learn to stand up for what is right, develop a moral compass, and take responsibility for themselves as well as for those who are less fortunate. Naturally, there will be occasional slip-ups. Many teens will likely be risk takers, break some rules and perhaps even tell a few lies at some point during this period of their lives. The good news, however, is that with age, these same kids will start to develop a continued sense of right and wrong. Their values will usually shift, change and eventually coincide with their parents’ values. This is why positive parental role models are so vital.
Some positive character traits that parents and other role models can exhibit for adolescents include showing how to respect all things (living and non-living), promoting equality and fairness, demonstrating integrity by standing up for core beliefs, remaining honest and always telling the truth, being responsible, using manners, and teaching about restraint when dealing with harmful or unhealthy habits and issues.
In order to promote good character skills, parents should seize the opportunity to ask their teens the following types of questions: What if ‘this’ happened? How would ‘it’ make you feel? What would you do in this situation? Open communication, role-playing and positive role modeling are key to the successful development of an adolescent’s character development.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.” Parents, ultimately it’s up to you to help your children find their voice and learn about good character. Guide them in a positive direction and make sure they understand the relationship between possessing good character skills and making their way in this world. Having quality character traits such as respect, integrity and kindness will help adolescents become successful members of society.
Life skills: preparing adolescents for adulthood is part of a 10-week series that will run in the Caloosa Belle.