Developing Your Child's Character

A long range goal of parenting is character development.  For adolescents and adults, their success in life will largely be determined by their character qualities.  Learning to make positive choices is essential to developing positive character qualities and a positive self-concept. 


A child’s behavior is largely a result of how the child views himself (self-concept) and the child’s experiences (such as being presented opportunities to make choices and held responsible for choices made as described in the Choices, Cookies & Kids method).  How parents respond to their children is a primary determiner of the character qualities children possess and how children view themselves: helpless or resourceful, failure or successful, cautious or adventurous, irresponsible or responsible. Here are some ways parents can help develop positive character qualities in their children.


  • Think about each of your children.  Pick a character quality from the following list that fits each child...
  • thoughtful
  • responsible
  • considerate
  • dependable
  • kind
  • generous
  • creative
  • cheerful
  • resourceful
  • or choose your own character quality 

Write a short note to each child using the following sentence: 
“I was just thinking about you and what I was thinking is that you are so _____.” 
Add the character quality you selected above and sign the note Love, Mom or Love, Dad.  

Mail the notes to each child. Receiving a letter in the mail is a big deal to children and increases the impact of the note. A child has several character qualities; so once each week for a month select a different character quality, write a note, and be creative in giving it to your child. Put the note under their dinner plate and leave a corner showing or put the note on their pillow or tape it to their mirror.

  • A character quality doesn’t have to be demonstrated by a child every hour of every day to be true of your child.  Look for small ways the character quality is demonstrated. For example, after a meal when your child puts his plate in the sink without being asked, you can respond, “Thanks for being thoughtful.” or “That was very thoughtful of you to put your plate in the sink.  Thanks.”
  • You can encourage development of a character quality you would like to see demonstrated more often.  Example: If your child struggles with being selfish, notice

    when she shares in the smallest way and say, “Thank you for sharing.”  Verbalize that character quality at least once a week for a month.

  • When a child makes a positive choice, notice by saying, “That was a very responsible decision.”  When children hear a character quality often enough, they begin to view themselves as being creative, thoughtful, responsible and so on.
  • Use words that focus on character qualities:
    • "That was a considerate thing to do."
    • "You are so resourceful."

Some character qualities are a double-edged sword, like tenacity.  As a young child, our middle daughter’s tenacity was a thorn in my side.  She would push for something she wanted and not let go or back off.  However, used properly, this character quality is highly desirable and will get a person through tough times as an adolescent or adult.  Therefore, I wanted to make sure I didn’t do harm to her tenacious character quality. The Rule of Thumb is Persistent Patience: patience with the process of dealing over and over again with the difficult character quality, patience as you look for the positive side of each difficult character quality, and patience as you use the Choices, Cookies and Kids method to help your child learn to use the positive dimensions of the difficult character quality.