As you begin to consider the new parenting paradigm, I want to push you all to reconsider your notion of character and what it means for your child.
The notion of teaching “good character” is very much tied to the old paradigm of parenting. Traits like respect, responsibility, fairness, and citizenship, are essential for building a kinder world, but the way they are taught matters.
We are more attuned to the capability of children now than we ever have been. We are beginning to recognize their capacity for empathy and their astonishing connection to emotions and intuition. If we want to raise a generation that knows how to care for themselves, their community, and the world, we need to encourage empathy, emotional intelligence, environmental responsibility, capacity for wonder, and intuition.
A child who understands empathy will grow into an adult with a strong sense of social justice and responsibility. A child who understands their own emotions and has been allowed to listen to their intuition will grow into an adult who can set boundaries and look out for their own needs within a relationship. They will be less likely to succumb to peer pressure and will be well equipped to make responsible decisions. A child who is taught to care for their environment will grow into an adult who considers how their actions impact the world around them.
We don’t need to toss old ideas about character out the window; it is vital to our communities that our children are respectful, responsible, trustworthy, caring individuals. When we focus on these traits in isolation, though, and utilize punishments and rewards to teach our children to make the “right” choices, we miss out on so many opportunities. We miss the chance to connect with them, to help them understand their emotions, to help them uncover better ways to meet their needs, and to teach them how to speak up and set healthy boundaries.
As we prioritize these next generation character traits and move away from the old paradigm model of punishments and rewards in favor of connection and problem solving, our children will naturally develop into the caring and responsible citizens of this world that we hope for them to be and the need to provide “character education” will melt away.
Our everyday interactions with our children are full of opportunities to model next generation character traits. Even something as basic as the words we choose can shape the way our children show up in the world and relate to other people. They are learning how to be in relationship with others through their relationship with us, after all. Whether you’ve been conscientious of the language you use from the start or you’re just starting to bring your attention to the patterns of interacting with children that were modeled for you, my free cheat sheet, Five Phrases that Will Change the Way You Relate to Your Child, will give you something to think about. To claim yours, just enter your email address below.