Parent Strategies

Parents  -  Twenty-One Strategies to Help Your Children Develop Good Character

Dr. Helen LeGette, former Associate Superintendent
Burlington City Schools, Burlington.NC

The following 21 suggestions are excerpted from Dr. Helen LeGette’s book, Parents, Kids, & Character: Twenty-one Strategies to Help Your Child Develop Good Character. She brings to the reader knowledge and experiences from her 33-year career as a leader in education - as a teacher, counselor and administrator. She knows that children who have limits in the home, and parental expectations of good character, have a much greater chance of success in school and in a career. Her book offers ideas that can be implemented in any family home.

  1. Model good character in the home. As William Bennett observes in the Book of Virtues, “there is nothing more influential, more determinant in a child’s life than the moral power of a quiet example. It is critically important that those who are attempting to influence children’s character in positive ways, “walk the talk.”
  2. Be clear about your values. Tell your children where you stand on important issues. Good character is both taught and caught. If we want children to internalize the virtues that we value, we need to teach them what we believe and why.
  3. Show respect for your spouse, your children, and other family members. Parents who honor each other, who share family responsibilities, and who resolve their differences in peaceful ways communicate a powerful message about respect.
  4. Model and teach your children good manners. Good manners are really the Golden Rule in action. Insist that all family members use good manners.
  5. Have family meals together without television as often as possible. Mealtime is an excellent time to talk with and listen to your children and to strengthen family ties. This shared time set aside reinforces a sense of belonging to and being cared about the family.
  6. Plan as many family activities as possible. Involve your children in the planning. Family activities that seem quite ordinary at the moment are often viewed in retrospect as very special and memorable bits of family history.
  7. Worship together as a family. Shared worship experiences help to strengthen family unity and provide a moral foundation for its members.
  8. Don’t provide your children access to alcohol or drugs. Model appropriate behavior regarding alcohol and drugs. Nowhere is the parents’ personal example more critical than in this area.
  9. Plan family service projects or civic activities. At the heart of good character is a sense of caring and concern for others. Numerous opportunities for family service projects exist in every community.
  10. Read to your children and keep good literature in the home. Great teachers have always used stories to teach, motivate, and inspire, and reading together is an important part of passing the moral legacy of our culture from one generation to another.
  11. Limit your children’s spending money. Help them appreciate an appreciation for non-material rewards. Parents can make strong statements about what they value by the ways in which they allocate their own resources and how they allow their children to spend their money.
  12. Discuss the holidays and their meanings. Have family celebrations and establish family traditions. These occasions serve as a special kind of glue that binds us together as human beings, as family members, and as citizens.
  13. Capitalize on the teachable moment. Use situations to spark family discussions on important issues. Some of the most effective character education can occur in the ongoing everyday life of the family.
  14. Assign home responsibilities to all family members. Even though it is often easier to clear the table, take out the trash, or load the dishwasher ourselves than to wait for a child to do it, we have an obligation to help children learn to balance their own needs and wishes against those of other family members – and ultimately, other members of society.
  15. Set clear expectations for your children and hold them accountable for their actions. Defining reasonable limits and enforcing them appropriately establishes the parents as the moral leaders in the home and provides a sense of security to children and youth.
  16. Keep your children busy in positive activities. Channel energy into positive activities such as sports, hobbies, music or other forms of arts, or youth groups. Such activities promote altruism, caring, and cooperation and also give children a sense of accomplishment.
  17. Learn to say no and mean it. Despite the child’s protests, a parent’s most loving act is often to stand firm and prohibit the child’s participation in a potentially hurtful activity.
  18. Know where your children are, what they are doing, and with whom. At the risk of being perceived as “old fashioned,” insist on meeting your children’s friends and parents.
  19. Refuse to cover for your children or make excuses for their inappropriate behavior. Shielding children and youth from the logical consequences of their actions fails to teach them personal responsibility. It also undermines social customs and laws by giving them the impression that they are somehow exempt from the regulations that govern others’ behavior.
  20. Know what television shows, videos, and movies your children are watching. While there are some very fine materials available, a proliferation of pornographic and hate-filled information is easily accessible to our youth. By word and example, teach your children responsible viewing habits.
  21. Rememberthat you are the adult! Children don’t need another buddy, but they desperately need a parent who cares enough to set and enforce appropriate limits for their behavior.

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