COMMENTARY 980.3: The TEAM Approach to Teaching Character

I want my kids to be smart and successful, but I also want them to be good. I want them to be the kind of people other parents would like to see their kids marry. I also want them to make sound, values-based decisions that will help them be safe and happy.

So, like most parents, I spend lots time trying to instill in them virtues like honesty, respect, responsibility, fairness, and kindness.

But building character is more complicated than teaching math or manners. It involves the heart as well as the head. The goal is to make good thoughts and conduct a matter of habit. I want my children to know what’s good, want what’s good, and do what’s good.

Effective character-building is captured in the acronym T.E.A.M. – teach, enforce, advocate, and model.

We teach character by promoting and developing the values and ethical virtues that make up a good person – trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. We need to be sure kids understand what each of these traits looks like.

We entrench these values by enforcing them, by backing up our rhetoric with appropriate consequences. What you allow, you encourage.

Advocating values means passionately and relentlessly stating our commitment to good character so our children have no doubt what we want for them and expect from them.

Finally, and most crucial, we must teach positive values by example, modeling the virtues we want to see in our children. We teach values by the way we deal with pressures, frustrations, fatigue, and other everyday actions, especially what we say and do when we think no one’s looking.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.


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