The first step in fostering character education for both teachers and parents is establishing a strong positive relationship and open communication with children. Keep the following suggestions in mind as you work with children and as you help parents understand how they can make character education a part of their life at home.

  • Accept children's feelings. Young children feel strongly, and sometimes it's difficult, especially for parents, to watch children act out in anger or show deep sadness. It is possible to accept these feelings and at the same time limit the strong behavior that sometimes accompanies them.
  • Avoid labeling behavior as good or bad. Even if we only label good behavior, children know in their heart of hearts that means it can also be bad. So be specific in descriptions, and focus instead on redirection. If you must, describe behavior as impolite or rude or hurtful as long as you point out the specific behavior you're referring to.
  • State expected behavior and show confidence that children will be able to meet the expectations. Often adults tell children what not to do or set a limit without stating ways children can live up to the desired behavior. Be clear. Make sure what you are asking and the way you are asking are developmentally on target so children understand. This will help them have the confidence to handle situations successfully.
  • Help children show what they know and what they can do. When we give children information that is too abstract, state expectations without showing children how to meet them, or expect children to do things that they are not developmentally ready for, we hamper their development of the attributes we are hoping to cultivate. Instead, provide materials that are both meaningful to their level of development and ones they can master.