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Focus On Your Child

Focus On Your Child
(From our October 2017 Issue)
Danny Huerta Picture

Dear Danny,

My husband and I have young children (pre-school) and we want to start helping them develop good character now. What’s the best way to do that at this age?

~ Amanda

Dear Amanda,

Solid decision-making develops character. Our goal is to teach our kids how to be great decision-makers so that they can become the best people they can be. As parents, we get to model the idea that small decisions add up to the ultimate outcome of good character. Now, there may be moments of failure and disappointment along the way, but that’s OK. We have an amazing responsibility, but it comes with a lot of room for error!

Children mirror what they see. If you watch carefully, you’ll see your kids doing things you have modeled. This is exciting, gratifying, and terrifying all at the same time, especially since kids reflect imperfections and mistakes as well as the good things they observe. And kids not only mirror your behavior, but that of their friends and others. too.

Children are quick learners when it comes to picking up behaviors, such as controlling others to get what they want, or using a temper tantrum to get their way. But they also pick up on great things you or others are doing, like being kind, compassionate and helpful.

You can assist your kids by helping them notice decision-making around them, and pointing out how those decisions might make other people feel. You can do this anytime, even in the midst of your immediate circumstances. When my son and daughter get in an argument, my wife and I sometimes ask the questions, “What do you think it is like to be with you at this moment? How do you think your sister or brother feels right now?”

It is crucial for kids to see other people doing the right thing, telling the truth, and showing self-control. What examples are they seeing? Are they getting a lot of information from movies and television? Characters they see, hear, or read about can greatly impact how kids develop and manage their own character. This makes parental involvement and guidance crucial when it comes to what kids watch or listen to. (As an interesting aside, research suggests that kids do better at learning and applying character lessons from human characters in stories than from fictional animal characters.)

There are lots of trustworthy resources that can help your kids build good character. For instance, Focus on the Family has two magazines for young readers, Clubhouse Jr., for boys and girls age 4- to 8-years-old, and Clubhouse, for children age 8- to 12-years-old. These two monthly magazines have stories that allow kids to read about others who exemplify great character. Focus also has an excellent audio resource called Adventures in Odyssey. This radio drama was created for children ages 8-12, but it is loved by listeners of all ages. It combines lessons of faith with characters and stories that children love. For more information about these magazines or Adventures in Odyssey visit www.focusonthefamily.com.

Danny Huerta
Vice President, Parenting & Youth
Focus on the Family

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