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How to Build Character in Teens

by Tiffany Raiford

Teens with character possess traits such as honesty, responsibility, respect and compassion. Helping your teen build a positive character is done most easily when you are a person of character who exhibits a good example of what it’s like to live virtuously and ethically. However, many parenting techniques can will help your teen develop the kind of character that will make you proud.

Be a good example of sound morals, ethics and strong character, advises Michelle Borba, parenting expert and educational psychologist. For example, if your teen grows up witnessing your willingness to admit to your mistakes, to help those in need and live an example of kindness, it helps her build her own character. Your example of good character is your teen’s primary example of what it means to live virtuously.

Say thank you to your teens when their actions warrant it, advises Focus on the Family, a website designed to offer families support and educational information. When you offer gratitude to your teen for his good behavior and his willingness to help, he is more likely to continue to exhibit good behavior. A simple thank you is an effective way to teach your teen to build character because it helps him feel good. When he feels good, he wants to experience that feeling again, which means his behavior will reflect that desire.

Tell your teen you are proud of her when her character shows goodness, advises Borba. For example, when she comes to you with a bag of old clothes or dolls she’s outgrown and asks you whether you can drive her to the local children’s shelter so she can donate these items to families in need, tell her you are proud of her. When you reinforce her good character, it helps her develop that character. Good deeds build good character and both should be recognized.

Help your teen learn to be compassionate, advises Focus on the Family. You can do this by encouraging him to listen when people come to him for help and to be there for others. For example, when his friends come to him when they are having a bad day, his compassion will allow him to offer them a listening ear and advice if they should desire advice. Overall, being there for your teen when he needs someone to listen or talk to will help him learn that kind of compassion and how to develop that into his own character.

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