I’m so happy to have two posts published recently at Makchic where I share 10 things on my heart for my toddler and a glimpse of what drives me to stick at my guns as an at-home mom. Would love and appreciate if you could check them out, at your leisure. Thank you!
We started a Character Education unit at home last week.
I am excited to share it with you because it is a wonderful way to enrich parent-child conversations. It’s also a great resource for us (parents) to anchor our children’s teachable moments in an intentional, systematic and consistent way.
I downloaded an Operational Definition of Character Qualities chart from The Duggar Family and created these cards. I printed them on coloured paper, laminated them for durability and used metal rings to hold them in place. I like that they flip easily and everyone finds them easy to use.
There are 49 character qualities altogether. Each positive quality is set against its opposite. This gives us a better understanding of the character quality we want to build, and helps us identify the quality we want to avoid.
There is a definition that explains the character quality, as well as a verse to memorise. (The original Operational Definition chart has only the verse reference. I wanted our family to memorise the verse, so I looked each up in The New Living Translation and put it there.)
This is how we have started using these Character Education cards.
1. Make them accessible.
The cards are kept in our Memory Verse Box which is placed on our kitchen table, where we have our meals and snack times. We use the Memory Verse Box every day, and it helps me to keep all such memory work in one place. Initially I thought of hanging the cards on our Focus Board, but the kitchen table was a more strategic place for us since we meet there ever so often!
2. Have a specific time slot devoted to teaching and sharing.
Usually after lunch, while everyone is still seated and before I do the dishes, we go through old memory verses and learn a new one for the week. Adding our Character Education unit to that time slot was just a further step. I have learned that fixing a specific time for something important makes it so much easier for us to build a habit.
3. Focus on a new character quality each week.
Using these cards will help our whole family to be intentional about developing character, systematically, over time – both parents & kids.
We plan curriculum schedules for the 3Rs, time slots for kids’ extra-curricular activities, grocery shopping, fitness regimes and entertainment. How about a specific plan for character-building? Yes, why not!
4. Teaching & reinforcement ideas.
Here are some ideas we are applying.
Every Sunday, both parents spend a few minutes discussing the character quality to be learned that week. Both parents decide, intentionally, to model the quality during the week – first to each other, then to the kids.
I spend a few minutes reflecting on how that character quality is featuring in our family. Is is badly absent? Or have we been doing pretty well in that area? Is there something I need to change, on a personal level, so that I will become a better model to my kids? How will I teach it, this week?
During our post-lunch time slot, I introduce the character quality to the kids. They are all seated, well-fed and have nothing else to distract them!
I read the definition and the verse on the card. Then I explain it, giving a practical example from my own life about how I practised the positive quality, eg. Truthfulness. I might also have a personal story on how I acted otherwise, eg. failed to be Truthful, but was Deceptive instead. Then I enlarge the perspective by posing hypothetical situations to the kids (“What would you do in ______ situation?”), encouraging them to ask questions, comment, or share an example of how they’ve seen the quality (positive or negative) in action. We end the time by memorising the verse.
Our favourite memory technique is to break a verse into short sections, come up with hand/body actions for each key word, and use dramatic voice tones that reflect the meaning of the verse. The results are sometimes hilarious, with lots of showmanship and laughter thrown in for good measure.
Tuesday – Thursday
On each day, again at the kitchen table after lunch, we revise the card and recite the verse again. I have everyone take turns to recite from memory, together with the appropriate hand/body actions and dramatic voice. (My toddler and preschooler need a bit of prompting from me or the 7-year old during their turn. It’s both surprising and delightful to see how much they can commit to memory!)
Then we do any one of the following:
- Read-aloud a children’s story book that illustrates the character quality in action, then everyone discusses the story.
- Do a craft, related to the character quality.
- Read-aloud a Bible story that illustrates the character quality in action, then everyone discusses the story.
- Play a game that encourages everyone to memorise the verse.
- Listen to a song/watch a video that illustrates the quality.
It’s really not much work or time involved, as long as I spend the Sunday night before planning which books I will use. I haven’t had the energy to look up crafts, songs or videos, but just stories only has been working well for us.
During the children’s evening bedtime routine, we can take turns to share whether we practised the positive quality for that day, whether we failed to do so, and any challenges we had. I find it helps for adults to share first, leading by example, then encouraging our kids to share too if they like. We spend some time praying for each other, for God to help our whole family develop the quality we’re focusing on for the week, besides the other usual things we pray about.
Such opportunities for reflection and discussion not only reinforces understanding by requiring some level of cognitive development on the part of the kids, but also helps them to know that even as parents we’re not perfect. There may be sensitive moments, calling for saying “sorry”, asking each other for forgiveness, and reaffirming each other.
After 3 weeks of teaching character qualities (ie. learning 3 qualities in 3 weeks), we plan to spend the 4th week reviewing and reinforcing the 3 qualities learned. This involves re-reading the stories, sharing new personal experiences, and reciting the verses. We won’t learn a new character quality for that week.
6. Other things we (parents) can do.
Share our personal story, on the go
We can take advantage of times together as a family to talk about our own personal experiences in applying the character quality, eg. “It isn’t easy, but I’m trying my best to exercise self-control in this situation”. There are always opportunities, in a traffic jam, at the supermarket queue, during an impending argument with our husband or wife (if that’s possible!).
Affirm our spouse
I can affirm my husband whenever he practises a positive quality, eg. “(Sweet Man – of course I don’t actually call him that!), you’re tired after a long day but I notice you were really Patient that time.” Encouraging my own partner starts a positive revolution in our relationship!
Converse intentionally with our children
We can have conversations with our children that build character vocabulary, eg. “I see that your brother got upset because he felt you ignored him. What can you do to be more Attentive, instead of being Unconcerned about his feelings?” (Highlight both the positive and opposing quality.)
I hope that by introducing such character vocabulary to our kids, they will gradually learn to express their negative emotions in a helpful, constructive way. They will also learn to use words that affirm others in a positive, encouraging way.
Last week, we learned Truthfulness using some of the above ideas. It was a wonderful time and I am so glad we started on this unit. The children and I are still sharing personal stories with each other on how we are applying Truthfulness this week!
Here is a free printable of our Character Education cards. The cards are arranged in vertical order, from left to right, following the Operational Definition of Character Qualities chart.
I will be sharing what we did in our Truthfulness unit soon – stories we read and games we played. This week, we are focusing on Obedience.
What are your thoughts on Character Education? Would you like to join our family on this journey? If you choose to begin using these cards (and even if you don’t), I would LOVE for you to share in the Comments section any links, thoughts, stories and/or teaching ideas you might have.
Character Education Allies & Friends