In the previous chapter of the helping kids build character series, I explained about the beliefs we try to instill in our kids. We need to focus on encouraging the good character traits we want our children to have. We should not try to prevent the characters we don’t want them to have.
If good character traits are like plants, the fear that your child will develop a bad character is like watering the plant with weed killer. The character will never grow. For good character traits to grow and flourish, we need to give them water and healthy, nutritious fertilizer.
In the last chapter, we listed the A to F of good character traits that we want our kids to have. We talked about some of the major weed killers that prevent these good character traits from growing. This chapter covers the good character traits from G to Z.
- Generous – “Don’t be a sucker”, “People will take advantage of you”, “Why would you waste your time on that?”, “What will you get from helping them?”, “If you do things for people for free, they’ll expect you to do it for free forever” .
- Gentle – Aggressive behavior and the use of force, threats and harsh discipline will prevent kids from developing gentleness as a trait. Saying things like, “Stop being a girl (for a boy)”, “I am make the rules. You do what I tell you or else…”
- Grateful – “You are ungrateful”, “It is not worth doing anything for you”, “I do things for you and you do not appreciate it”, “You need to beg me to do that”, “I am ashamed of you”, “I will help you only if you do what I tell you to do”.
- Healthy – “You are weak”, “You are fat”, “You eat too much junk food and it will make you fat”, “You eat what I put on the table”, “This is my house and my money and I will decide what we eat here”.
- Helpful – “Don’t waste your time”, ” I don’t need your help”, “You are no help to me”, “You are just trouble”, ” Every time you come to the kitchen, there is mess here”, “I don’t want your help and I don’t want your mess”, “Stop being a sucker”, “If you help others, they will take advantage of you”.
- Honest -“You are such a liar”, “I can see on your nose that you are a liar”, “I can’t trust you”, “You are a chronic liar”.
- Happy – “You are such a miserable kid”, “That is your problem”, “Will you stop complaining!”, “Nothing can please you”, “I do everything for you and you are not appreciative”, “Nothing is ever enough for you, is it?”.
- Humble – Competitiveness will not allow kids to develop humbleness. Saying things like, “Don’t be ashamed to show them your reward”, “Why didn’t they let you run the race? You are the best!”, “You have to be the best”.
- Hopeful – “You will never succeed”, “You are a loser and will always be a loser”, “You are unlucky”, “You will never have money”, “You will never have a friends/get a job/a boyfriend/an A…”, “Dream on!”, “Life is not about what you want”, “Wake up! Stop living in La La land”.
- Imaginative – “You are not that creative”, “Everyone can do it”, “Someone already thought about that before you did”, “This is not real”, “Things don’t happen that way. Snap out of it and get real”, “I am worried about your future”, “I don’t have much expectations from you”.
- Independent – “Why can’t you do anything on your own?”, “How many times do I need to help you?”, “Stop being a little boy and start growing”, “If you want to show me you are a grown up and responsible, do what I tell you to do”, “You are not good/strong/mature/big/knowledgeable enough”, “You can’t do it on your own”, “You can do what I tell you to do, otherwise, don’t come to me for help”.
- Intelligent – “You are so stupid”, “This is a simple thing. Why can’t you understand it?”, “How many times do I need to explain this?”, “What’s wrong with you?”, “Who is the retarded person who put this thing here?”.
- Loving – If you want your child to be loving, you need to be loving first. Parents who never say, “I love you” and do not compliment or encourage, are not allowing that character to grow in their child. Parents who do not teach their kids that touch such as hugging and kissing are ways to express love do not make a loving plant grow strong. Parents whose gifts as bribes do not teach their kids that gifts can be given in kindness, not because they have to or as a way to force someone to do something. Such parents miss out the opportunity to teach love. Such kids may grow up to one day be parents or even grandparents who are convinced they were not loved or worthy of their parents love. Parents water with weed killer when they say things like, “Stop being so emotional”, “If you tell people how you feel, they will use it against you”, “He knows I love him. I don’t have to say it. My dad never said that to me”.
- Loyal – If you gossip at your house, talk badly about people behind their backs or express jealousy towards others, you are weed killing that “Loyal” plant. ” Saying things like, “She was so stupid”, “I can’t stand her”, “Your friends will betray you”, “You can’t trust anyone”, “Never trust a friend”.
- Observant – Fussy or controlling parents who complain and point out their children’s mistakes do not allow them to develop attention to details. In the presence of fear, the brain cannot pay attention to detail. This is a defense mechanism. Our instinctive reaction to the presence of danger (fear) is to shut down and focuses on “fight or flight”. In such circumstances, attention to details is a luxury. Other things that discourage the observant plant from growing are saying “You are such a space cadet”, “Do you mean you didn’t see that standing here!?”, “It is so obvious. Every stupid idiot would notice it”.
- 0ptimistic – “This world is going towards disaster”, “Our future does not seem bright”, “We’ll never be able to do that”, “We don’t stand a chance”, “We’ll never have enough money/ability/knowledge/skills/time”, “There is nothing more I can do”, “I have done everything I can” (This is never true. As long as you are still alive, there is always more you can do. You have done everything you thought you could do, but not everything you can possibly do. There are many things we can do that we think we cannot. And thinking makes it so. Remember, if you think you can or think you can’t, you are right!).
- Peaceful/Peacemaker – Parents who complain, bully control, or are aggressive and violent are considering their own agenda, beliefs, ideas and desires above all others. Complaining is telling others they didn’t meet your expectations. Controlling is trying to force them to fit into your criteria. Aggressiveness, bullying and violence are methods to control others. All of them are very strong weed killers. Compromising is the water that heals this peaceful plant. Parents who say things like this are not encouraging a peacemaker, “You live in my house; you do what I tell you to do. If you won’t do that I will…”, “I set the rules”, “Things will be my way or the highway”.
- Persistent – Perfectionistic parent or parents who complain and point out mistakes and faults do not allow kids to develop persistence. If you say things like, “You can’t make such mistakes”, “Why didn’t you get 100% on your exam?”, “You never finish things”, “Don’t bother, you are useless”, “You are so stubborn. How many times do I need to tell you that is a bad idea”, “You are so stubborn. How many times do you need to fail to understand that this is stupid and you will never be a famous dancer”.
- Polite – Parents who never use “please” and “thank you” and do not treat their kids with respect cannot expect respect in return. Parents who give orders, threaten or bribe their kids are not showing them what respect and politeness are supposed to look like. Parents are not encouraging politeness when they say, “Do this”, “If I tell you to do something, you do it or!”, “If you won’t do this, do not expect me to take you to school in the morning”.
- Positive – Complaining, criticizing and negative parenting cannot instill positive trait in kids. In life, you get what you focus on. If you focus on what is missing in your life, you’ll have lots of it. If you point out what is not good in your kids, you’ll see more of it. Try not to say things like, “Why can’t you be like your sister?”, “You can’t do anything well”, “It will be a disaster”, “You will regret this for the rest of your life”.
- Reliable – Reliability is another form of trust. You cannot build trust if you do not trust your kids. Pointing out the behaviors that are the opposite of trust will be weed killers. Things like, “I can never trust you to do what is right”, “You make bad choices”, “You never keep your promises”, “I can’t count on you to do the simplest things”.
- Respectful – Parents who shame, mock, criticize, control or use force do not respect their kids so they are bad models of respect. Disrespect is a weed killer. Weed killer words include, “I am the parent in this house and I have rights that you don’t”, “I have more experience than you so you’d better listen to me”, “When I was your age, I walked to school in blinding snowstorms. You are just spoiled brats”, “You need to earn my respect”, “I will respect you only when you do what I tell you to do”, “I will punish you because of something you did”.
- Responsible – Giving a child responsibility is another form of trust. But there are ways that you show them that you don’t trust them, “You are weak”, “You can’t do it on your own”, “You are not big/smart/able enough”, “I will tell you what to do/think”, “I make the rules here”, “I can’t trust you to do anything”, “I will allow you to do it only when I decide the time is right”.
- Smart – “You are stupid”, “What a stupid thing to do”, “That was smart! (sarcastically)”, “Who is stupid enough to do that?”, “What nonsense!”, “You don’t know enough to have an opinion”.
- Sociable – Parents who are not very sociable cannot expect their kids to be sociable. Instilling fears in them will make sure they never end up being sociable. Saying things like, “Do not be kind or others will take advantage of you”, “No one wants to be your friend”, “No wonder no one wants to be your friend”, “You are so selfish, no one will be your friend”, “If you continue like this, no one will be your friend”.
- Sensitive – Parents who are insensitive to their kids’ desires and needs will find it hard to instill sensitive trait in their kids. It is one of those things kids need to copy and get rewarded for in order to consider it a good trait. Insulting kids, mocking them, blaming, punishing, shaming them or making them feel guilty is showing them examples of insensitivity. Saying things like, “It is all your fault”, “Look how your mum feels now with what you have done”, “That was rude of you”, “You are so selfish”, “There are others living in this house”, “You failed your exam because you are lazy”, “It is your fault”.
Safe feelings cannot grow in the presence of fear
- Safe – Critical, perfectionistic, bullying, controlling, aggressive, or even violent parents cannot instill safety in their kids. A feeling of safety cannot grow in the presence of fear. Threats or any force and abuse of power will make a child fear the parent rather than see them as a place to come to for comfort and support. Try not to say things like, “If you don’t do what I ask you to do, do not come to me for help”, “If you ask for my help, I expect you to do what I tell you to do”, “That was a stupid mistake and it is unacceptable”.
- Satisfied – Fussy parents raise fussy kids. If parents are complainers, critical perfectionists, pessimistic or negative, they pass on a big message of disappointment. It is not easy to make them happy. When kids are very young, they adopt the belief, “There is nothing I can do to make mom/dad happy” and they take the blame for it. They spend the rest of their lives trying to “please” that parent. They usually grow up to be the same as their parents, fussy, complainers, critical and perfectionists, pessimistic and negative, towards themselves and everyone around them. Even if they do the most amazingly wonderful things, they are never satisfied. They think things like, “That’s not good enough”, “I would be ashamed to display this if I were you”, “This is a disgrace”, “I had high expectation from you”, “You disappoint me”.
- Trustworthy – “I can’t trust you to do something simple”, “You are not reliable”, “I can’t give you responsibility”, “You are not responsible”, “No one believes what you are saying”, “I can’t trust you to keep a secret”.
- Talented – “You are not a good singer”, “You need to work lots before someone thinks you know how to draw”, “This is not good enough”, “You are not good enough”, “You play soccer like a girl (for a boy)”, “I suggest you try a different instrument, you are just not good at the flute”.
- Tolerant – There are many parents who show frustration when their kids do not meet their expectations. It is easy to forget how it feels to be a child. Teaching a child to be short tempered and disappointed with others makes them snappy and disrespectful. For kids to be tolerant, their parents need to understand and be accepting of the others’ ideas and thoughts. If people think differently to you, that is not a threat. Being critical of others makes you look opinionated, critical, judgmental, labelling and perfectionistic. Parents who say things like these are not fostering tolerance, “That’s silly and stupid”, “Only dumb people do this”.
- Unique -“You are not the only person in this house”, “We have other kids too”, “You are no different from anybody else”, “We treat you the same as we treat everyone else in this household”, “You are not as good as your brother”, “Why can’t you be like your sister?” (I have this one before. It is carved into my mind forever. My poor sister was so smart and talented it was hard to be her sister. And it was not even her fault!).
- Wise – “You are just a kid and you need to leave those choices to the grownups”, “Do what I tell you to do”, “You don’t know enough”, “You are weak and can’t think straight”.
Join me next time, when I share a list of bad traits that grow in the presence of weed killers and an exercise to change them.
This post is part of the series Helping Kids Build Character:
- Helping Kids Build Healthy and Powerful Character Traits
- Healthy and Powerful Character Traits for Children (A to G)
- Developing Good Character Traits for Children: H to Z
- Positive Character Traits for Children: Watering with Weed Killer
- How to Destroy Good Character Traits for Children: A to F
- How to Destroy Good Character Traits in Children: G-Z
- Kids’ Personality Traits: How to Change Them with Awareness
- Character Traits: Swapping the Bad for the Good