Developing Character in Our Kids

What makes a student successful? What makes adults successful? Is it how much they know? To me, it’s the character of a man or woman that makes the biggest difference. When I look back over my years of teaching, my biggest frustrations with students (and parents) revolve around issues like responsibility, dishonesty, short-sightedness, dependence, lack of perseverance, and lack of tenacity. As Angela Duckworth so eloquently details in her TED Talk, the biggest indicator of success is grit.

For years, educational “experts” have been telling us that students fail, students are mean, students are depressed because of their lack of self-esteem. I see students with the opposite problem: they are completely self-consumed and think of themselves as invincible. “I can drink and drive and will never get caught or get in an accident.” “I can be lazy and not do any hard work and turn out just fine. I’ll get by somehow.” Today’s young people suffer from a lack of character that revolves around an extreme self-centered attitude.

So if we want kids to focus more on others and develop strong character, what do we as educators do? Build up their SELF esteem? I believe that approach creates more self-centered, ego-inflated citizens. First, we can model other-centeredness, caring, giving, and kindness for our kids. We should be smothering them with positive messages, encouragement, and acts of kindness. In addition, teachers should be highlighting positive peer role models.

Friday, a 12-year old boy had a dream come true: he got a foul ball at a Red Sox game. But instead of standing up, celebrating his moment, and pocketing the ball, he turned to the little girl behind him and handed it to her. Ryan acted without even thinking! He did it because it’s nice to do! What an amazing role model. Let’s lift up Ryan and make him a hero for our kids to admire, rather than all the characterless actors, musicians, and athletes that our society loves to worship. And after you watch this, submit a comment with a link to other inspiring stories of selflessness that we teachers can use as positive role models for our kids.

Published by

Tim Bedley

Tim Bedley has been teaching elementary school since 1988. He was recognized as the 2013 Riverside County Teacher of the year. Tim is also the founder of America's number one educational rock band, Rockin' the Standards. He also produces two podcast found on iTunes: The Bedley Bros. and The 5-Minute MishMash. Tim and his brother Scott are co-founders of Global School Play Day, a grassroots movement to promote unstructured play with today's youths.

4 thoughts on “Developing Character in Our Kids”

  1. I completely agree that what makes a person successful is their character. A person can be really intelligent or wealthy but that does not mean they are successful. It’s what they decide to do with that knowledge that defines their successes. I believe it’s important to instill character into our students. It gives them moral character and helps build a strong foundation for who they will become as adults.

    My school site uses a program for character building called Building Overall Leadership Development (B.O.L.D.). I love this program because each month focuses on a positive character trait to support students in developing good character. We focus on such characteristics as citizenship, caring, perseverance, integrity, and gratitude. These character traits help the students develop strong self-esteems while still learning to care and think of others. Through the help of this program, I have seen students determined to set goals for themselves which make them feel successful and purposeful. When they reach obstacles along the way, they draw upon the knowledge of these character traits to find ways to persevere and work through the challenges.

  2. Wow!!! That was amazing that the boy felt so compelled to give away that foul ball he got from the player. He seemed like he was happier to see that little girl excited than keep the ball for himself. I love to see kids being role models for others. I agree that we as adults need to be more of positive influence in our kids lives today to offer them values that will make them realize every action they do makes a difference in this world. No matter how small the difference may be, it will effect someone. Pay it forward is an awesome idea and we all should do more of it.
    Jennifer Saldana

  3. I completely agree! Kids learn by example. I am not the devout Catholic that my parents wished I would be when I grew up, but one thing I came away with from 12 years of Catholic School was the need to serve our community and participate in stewardship in some capacity. My son goes to Catholic School now and it’s partly because of those experiences that are provided through the school, motivational speakers that come to talk with them, and programs that I know he will be exposed to because he goes there. Religion is political too and is by no means the only way these virtues and values can be taught, but it is one way. Within our schools, we can participate in Shoreline Clean Up Days, fundraisers for different organizations and foundations that fight diseases, and contests that promote stewardship in the community in some way. I teach in a low income area, so in a way, there is more reason to teach these values early on. Giving back to our community is something we should all aspire to do “when we grow up”. Teachers are civil servants and as a teacher, I feel that I serve my community everyday. I am a bilingual teacher and parents with kids in other classes come to me all the time for answers and help because I make myself accessible and available to them. I feel it fulfills a need for stewardship and that is the reason I feel I need to stay where I am, regardless of all the other bureaucratic issues I face in my district.

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