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Living the Dream: 10 Steps to Raising Kids With Character



Martin Luther King dreamed of a time when we would all be judged not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character. But what has happened to character in our materialistic society? Here are 10 expert tips for raising children with the kind of character MLK dreamed of.

A Message to Black Moms: How Can We Raise Children With Character

  Martin Luther King had a dream. Everybody knows that.  But what he really had was so much more than that. He had the character, personal values and determination to work at that dream every day. More than that he was a true visionary, who saw beyond the present and into future generations to plant seeds, even though he didn’t know if and how those seeds would ever take root and grow.


King dreamed of a time when we would be judged not by the color of our skin but by the content of our character. But our society has become so obsessed with acquiring things, physical manifestations of success and keeping up with the Joneses that the concept of our character only seems to come into play when a high profile athlete cheats on his wife.


Then character is neatly tucked away until the next scandal.  

And for me, how do I build children of character, children with determination and foresightedness in an era of instantaneous gratification, video stimulation, and what-have-you-bought-for-me-lately-ness? 

“We have come to measure success by jobs, grades, test scores, awards, and the cars we drive. We have created an atmosphere that places image and results over inspiration and the process of learning. Nonetheless, inspiration and the learning process remain at the core of growth,” says Malcolm Gauld, co-author of the parenting book, The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have. Gauld and his wife also run The Biggest Job parenting seminars. 

I’m intrigued.

Gauld is also the president of The Hyde Schools, www.hyde.edu a group of public and private college preparatory schools and programs that have been involved with character education for years. Here’s what else he has to say:

“In a character culture, achievement is valued, but principles are valued more. That is, what you stand for is more important than how you are stacking up against others.”

Will we ever see that day?   

“Character is inspired, not imparted,” he says “We cannot pour it into our kids or our families. It takes work, and sometimes we put our relationships at risk when we hold to our convictions as parents. But the strongest relationships are those resting on a foundation of principles.”

I found some great insight on building character in some of their principles, what they call the “10 Priorities”. I’ll share them here.


PRIORITY #1—TRUTH OVER HARMONYWe all want honest families. We also want everyone to get along. Which do we want more? This priority calls upon parents to put the weight of their feet on the side of truth.

PRIORITY #2—PRINCIPLES OVER RULESWe tend to apply rules when things start to spin out of control. But rules alone are not a guiding force. Rules must be rooted in deep principles.

PRIORITY #3—ATTITUDE OVER APTITUDEParents can help their children by sending the message that honest efforts are more important than successful outcomes.

PRIORITY #4—SET HIGH EXPECTATIONS and LET GO OF THE OUTCOMES We need to aim high with our expectations for our kids and resist “lowering the bar” when we sense that our children are encountering difficulty. Letting go of the outcome allows our children to take responsibility for their actions.

PRIORITY #5—VALUE SUCCESS AND FAILUREToday’s parents have a hard time letting their children fail. Success is important, but failure can teach powerful lifelong lessons leading to profound personal growth.

PRIORITY #6—ALLOW OBSTACLES TO BECOME OPPORTUNITIES We can get caught up in trying to “fix” our children’s problems (e.g., disagreements with their teachers, coaches, etc.) instead of seeing the potential for positive learning opportunities.

PRIORITY #7—TAKING HOLD AND LETTING GOIt is hard to watch our children struggle with life’s challenges. When should we step in? When should we step away? This is one of the toughest parenting dilemmas. We practice letting go, when appropriate.

PRIORITY #8—CREATE A CHARACTER CULTUREThis priority can help parents create an atmosphere of character in the home through the application of a three-point plan: a daily job, a weekly family meeting, and a concept called “mandatory fun.”

PRIORITY #9—HUMILITY TO ASK FOR AND RECEIVE HELP While parents focus on helping their children, many avoid asking others for help. Consequently, they raise children who do not ask for help.

PRIORITY #10—INSPIRATION: JOB #1Regardless of what they might say or do, children and teens share a deep yearning to be inspired by their parents. Ironically, we will not inspire our children with our achievements. We best inspire them when we share our struggles, reach for our best, and model daily character.

You can learn more at http://www.greatparenting101.com

I, have got a lot of work to do.   


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