How To Raise a Child of Character

Parents often ask how to raise a child with good character and values, in the context of a culture that often seems to reward the opposite. The simplest answer is that children learn what they live, so if you live your values, your kids are likely to as well.

It's also true that talking explicitly about our values helps kids to develop them, especially in the face of teachings from the media or their peers that might go against what you believe.

Finally, there are definitely ways that you can encourage your child to be thoughtful, generous, responsible, courageous -- a person of character. To read more about encouraging the development of specific traits in your child, click below.

In This Section


Courage doesn’t mean not being afraid. In fact, in many situations that might qualify as stupidity.  Courage means being afraid and doing the right thing anyway.


Forcing someone to be generous just makes him resentful. Worse yet, it internalizes the sense that he must be a very bad boy indeed if he doesn’t want to share like a good boy.


If you have a deep faith and keep the rituals and calendar of your religious tradition, then you’ve probably given a lot of thought to your child’s spiritual development and have it all mapped out.  If, on the other hand, you wonder how to put what you believe into words and aren’t sure what tradition you want to pass on to your kids, this article is for you.


The way children learn values, simply put, is by observing what you do, and drawing conclusions about what you think is important in life. Regardless of what you consciously teach them, your children will emerge from childhood with clear views on what their parents really value, and with a well developed value system of their own.


No one is born with good judgment and the ability to make wise decisions. Good judgment and decision-making skills develop from experience combined with reflection. As one sage noted, "Judgment develops from experience. Good judgment develops from bad experience." Your goal is to give your child experience in making decisions, and make sure she has the opportunity to reflect on them and learn.


We all want to raise responsible children. And we all want to live in a world where others have been raised to be responsible, a world where adults don’t shrug off their responsibilities as citizens. As my son said, surveying the littered park when he was three, "Don't grownups know they have to clean up their own messes?"So how do we raise our kids to take responsibility for their choices and their impact on the world?

Books to Teach Kids Values

Most young children like books that talk about values and ethical dilemmas. That's because these questions are at the heart of what makes life meaningful, which is a primary question for children beginning at about the same age -- the preschool years -- when they first become aware of death. The problem is that kids don't learn from lectures. Mostly kids learn from discussion -- good questions from us, and good listening from us while they reflect aloud about what they think. And maybe the best way to start those discussions is with books that we read while they're young and searching for answers about how the world works and how to live a good life.

"Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you."
-H. Jackson Brown


For more tips, click here to watch Dr. Laura's video "Top Five Rules for Raising Great Kids."

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