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.


Comments 2

  1. Michael,

    Think of “upholding” the ethic of your family by setting the example and explaining “why” making decisions and taking action consistent with your family’s values is important. The connotation of “enforce” is not inspiring or motivating (it can be threatening). Also, we can uphold our values always — enforcing suggests reacting to a failure to live by values. We must be intolerant of violations of our values. However, if we uphold our values we mitigate violations (misconduct and unethical practices). All the best, respectfully, PAT

  2. As a teacher for over 25 years, I have decided on an early retirement. It appears to me that students can say anything they want about their teachers no matter if they are lying or perhaps do not realize what possible repercussions they may cause upon their teachers. Administrators today are fearful of losing their CUSHY jobs;therefore, they side with the students and discipline the teachers. As a former teacher and administrator, I ALWAYS listened and investigated and 99% of the time the students were gleefully playing to impress and curry favor with friends.
    Alas, I took an early retirement because so many politics are playing the role of leading school policies today, and I, for one, will play their games. Great article!!!!!!!!

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