‘Building Resilience’ | The 4th C is for character | SierraSun.com

‘Building Resilience’ | The 4th C is for character

Teri Andrews Rinne
Special to the Sun

TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the seventh installment in a series based upon the book "Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings" by Kenneth Ginsburg. Find Parts 1-6 at http://www.tahoedailytribune.com, keyword "Resilience."

A child can be competent, confident, and deeply connected (the first three C's), but still might not be prepared to thrive, without the crucial 4th C of character. Character is instilling the fundamental basics of right and wrong to ensure they are prepared to make wise choices, contribute to the world, and become stable adults.

Children with character enjoy a strong sense of self-worth and are more comfortable sticking to their own values and demonstrating a caring attitude toward others.

While every family may have their own recipe of what constitutes good character, most everyone can agree that we want our children to be moral, responsible, decent and kind. Beyond that, some families may value humility, while others may nurture the ability to present oneself aggressively. Some parents' highest priority is that their children are civil, polite, and respectful of others. Other families value generosity or individuality most highly.

I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.
Umberto Eco

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Whichever qualities are valued most must be traits that are emphasized within the family, since character development responds to feedback and direction. It cannot be left to chance, because children hear so many mixed messages about what kind of people they should be.

Children are like sponges, absorbing ideas and attitudes from everyone around them. The media tells them what they should look like and which items they need to be happy. Peers tell them how to behave. Teachers have one set of expectations, clergy another, coaches still another.

Children learn character not so much by telling them how to act, but by the values you teach, your words of praise or the way you correct them.

They learn character by observing your values and behavior in daily interactions outside your home and watching how adults treat each other inside your home.

Some basic questions to ask yourself include:

Do I help my child understand how her behaviors affect other people in good and bad ways?

Am I helping my child recognize herself as a caring person?

Do I allow her to clarify her own values?

Do I allow her to consider right versus wrong and look beyond immediate satisfaction or selfish needs?

Do I value her so clearly that I model the importance of caring for others?

Do I demonstrate the importance of community?

Do I help her develop a sense of spirituality?

Am I careful to avoid racist, ethnic, or hateful stereotypes? Am I clear how I regard these thoughts and statements whenever and wherever my child is exposed to them?

Do I express how I think of others' needs when I make decisions or take actions?

Next time: The 5th C: Contribution

Teri Andrews Rinne is the children's services librarian at the Truckee Library, 10031 Levon Ave. Call 530-582-7846 or visit http://www.mynevadacounty.com/library.