What is character? Teach your children in a setting that is relaxed and natural. It could be at lunch as they gather around the kitchen counter or on a blanket under a shade tree. Try to eliminate distractions such as media or pets.
For parents: Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary: “Character, n. 1. A mark made by cutting or engraving, as on stone, metal or other hard material; hence, a mark or figure made with a pen or style, on paper, or other material used to contain writing; a letter, or figure used to form words, and communicate ideas. 2. A mark or figure made by stamping or impression, as on coins. 4. The peculiar qualities, impressed by nature or habit on a person, which distinguish him from others; these constitute real character, and the qualities which he is supposed to possess, constitute his estimated character, or reputation.
What to teach: Start with the “heads” side of a quarter. The image on the quarter represents George Washington. It is a character that reminds us of the man and his character. Explain that the word character has various meanings. One meaning is the image stamped on a coin. Show a Chinese character or some Japanese Kanji and explain that it is a character that represents an idea. (This helps the children see letters as abstract characters.) When we write, we use characters to express ideas. When people read the letters that we have combined into words and sentences, they understand the ideas. Write Love on a piece of paper. When we look at the letters L O V E we think of ideas.
Ask what love means to them. Perhaps it is mom, family, chocolate ice-cream, flowers, or playing baseball.
Now have them write their names (or write them for them.) When we look at the characters in someone’s name we think of them. We think of what they look like and what they are like. Just like when we look at the quarter we think of George Washington, but we also think of him as a man of great integrity, leadership, faith in God, and generosity.
Ask your children what type of characteristics they would like people to think of when they think of them? What characteristics would they like to develop? Teach them that Heavenly Father has blessed us with characteristics and abilities that he’d like us to develop, and he has commanded everyone to develop some universally good characteristics like loving Him and loving our neighbors. Help each child decide on a characteristic they’d like to develop or improve that week, such as obedience, honesty, kindness, patience, or cheerfulness. Have them stretch to be more of the person God would have them become.
Discuss how they can work on that characteristic, and how as a parent you can help them such as with a code word when they lose their temper or resist obeying.
Remind them to pray for help. Teach them that Heavenly Father can write upon their hearts (or in other words, help them desire) the characteristics that they have chosen.
Paul wrote of good men who had developed righteous characteristics: 2 Corinthians 3:3 “Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.”