Character Education

Character education is fundamental to developing or teaching life skills. What a person believes and what he or she values in life set the stage for achieving success. If personal achievement is not valued, success will be difficult. If honesty is not a valued, strong positive relationships will be almost impossible. And values such as wealth, power or control, that become the single-most important goal in life can result in empty or limited success. Because achieving them may not bring the inner peace and joy that was anticipated. Character education is all about building integrity.

Basic life skills build on themselves - personal strengths, then relationship skills, and finally project skills - so character education is the perfect place to start. In essence, character is who we are. Fortunately, if we don't like who we are, we have the power to make the changes necessary to become the person we want to be. The desire to improve and build a better future provides the best motivation for building character and the skills necessary for increased success.

Character education can be self-taught or facilitated by an instructor. As long as the person desiring change is fully engaged in the process, he or she will undoubtedly see a change in attitude and motivation.

The following steps may be helpful in creating a personal plan for character education. It could also provide teaching ideas for creating life skills lessons plans or developing a home school curriculum.

Five-step Method for Building Stronger Character Traits:

1. Outline Basic Values

List all of the values you admire - in yourself, in others and in general. Don't try to avoid values such as wealth, power and control because they may sound negative. As mentioned before, they are only negative if they become the single-most important goal in your life. (There are actually many other values that could become negative if they became obsessions.) The following are suggestions for creating a list of values, but many others could be added:

Honesty, Self-respect, Respect for others, Love, Self confidence,

Wealth, Patience, Kindness, Religion, Determination,

Assertiveness, Beauty, Conflict Resolution, Independence,

Leadership, Support, Wisdom, Forgiveness,

Acceptance, Boundaries, Cooperation, Courage, Motivation,

Knowledge, Power, Trust, Physical Strength, Flexibility,

Loyalty, Health, Spirituality, Persistence, Self-discipline,

Relationships, Goal-oriented, Gratitude, Joy,

Challenge, Thrift, Admiration, Compassion, Achievement

2. Develop Fundamental Beliefs Around Values

For each of the values on your list, create two beliefs that expand on those values. For instance:

Honesty - I believe honesty is important in a relationship.I believe that if I want people to be honest with me, I must be honest with them.

Self-confidence -I believe I have as much value as anyone else.I believe I can accomplish goals that are important to me.

Self-discipline -I believe I can control my actions, reactions and emotions.I believe I can improve outcomes by staying calm and evaluating the situation.

Wealth -I believe money is necessary to be comfortable and feel secure.I believe money can ruin relationships.

3. Prioritize Importance of Values

Having attached personal beliefs to each value, list your values / beliefs in the order of their importance to you.

4. Evaluate Current Level of Support for Values

Using the following scale, indicate the extent to which each of these values is a part of your everyday life.

1- Value is very strong. I think about it and incorporate it into my behavior regularly.

2- Value is somewhat strong. I know it is important and practice it sometimes.

3- Value is something I admire. But I do not know how to implement it.

5. Choose Two Values and Create a Plan

Choose two of the values rated a #2 or #3 on the scale that you would like to see move to #1.

Now create a personalized plan for strengthening or acquiring each of the value / beliefs you have chosen. Some of the ways that can be used to strengthen values is to:

Research: Find out as much as you can about that value through the libraries and/or internet. As you learn more you may want to better define your beliefs.

Find a role model: This can be someone you admire who regularly practices this value; or look to the library or internet to discover people who are admired by many for practicing this value.

Start small: Values are not built overnight. It takes time to fully incorporate them into your everyday life. If they are important enough to you, it will happen. Simply changes you make can have great rewards. And just keeping a specific value in mind can make it easier to practice. For instance:

If you value self-confidence, you will make a conscious effort to notice all the tasks you complete and the kindnesses shown to you, no matter how small.

If you value self-respect, you will not intentionally do something that will hurt or demean you.

If you value honesty, you will make a conscious effort to tell the truth. (Of course, the way we deliver the truth is also important. Don't deliberately try to hurt someone.)