Building Character Isn’t Easy

Building Character Isn’t Easy

I have never organized a single playdate for my children. I don’t prepare regular meals for them. And, even on my best days, I have to remind myself of how old they are.

In a nutshell: I’m just not that kind of a mom.

However, my children do know their value, can admit when they’ve done wrong and have a strong moral compass. That’s because I’ve dedicated 98 percent of my parenting efforts to building their character.

And character is built one word at a time. The more positive a word is, the stronger its affect will be.

Unfortunately, we’re all battling a negative world-view that’s hell-bent on tearing us down. We struggle to say one positive thing about ourselves, let alone the people around us. Yet we can find hope if we resurrect—and put into practice—three age-old communication techniques.

1. Can’t say something nice? Don’t say anything at all.

I am just as prone to negative self-talk as the next person. Trust me, if I gain a few pounds the word “fat” practically demands to slip from my lips. However, the things I say about myself matter. They can compromise how I see myself and how others view themselves.

If I say I’m fat, what am I saying about my daughter or a friend standing next to me?

A better approach is to remain silent or say something nice. Such as:   

  • We look great today.
  • We’re strong and healthy.
  • A woman’s essence is the true source of her beauty.

We need to model positive behavior by first speaking well of ourselves. Otherwise, why should anyone believe the positive things we say about their character?

2. Show a little humanity.

When you find yourself behaving out of character in words or actions, course correct . . . but only after acknowledging your misstep. Because to succeed in building others up, you have to admit that you struggle in similar ways.

For example: If I start to yell at my children to be quiet, I’m cognizant of the double standard I’m setting. So I say to them, “Alright, I need to lower my voice. My shouting isn’t going to help this situation.”

Not only do they know how I want them to behave, they know what kind of behavior I expect of myself.

3. Listen more than you speak.

When a friend, colleague or child finds themselves in a jam, don’t pass judgment. No matter how well-intentioned you are, a condemningly delivered diatribe does nothing to build character.

Instead, ask a question such as, “How did your decision to do X make the situation better or worse?

This will encourage mentees to assess how their actions contributed to results, whether positive or negative.

The goal is not for them to mimic your character traits, but to establish their own. So the less you say, the more likely they’ll know how to behave when you’re not around.

Before you act …

Take a close look at your character. Do you possess the mental and moral qualities indicative of the person you want to be? If not, put a plan together to make adjustments. And don’t be afraid to reach out for help. After all, building character isn’t easy.   

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Melissa DeLayRead all author posts