A character trait is defined as a particular attribute of a person or fictitious character. The descriptions of traits are often adjectives that describe the person or character. Reading books together and discussing the characters can help you and your child discuss desirable and undesirable character traits. It can help your child with his school work, make good decisions about his selection of friends and govern his own behavior.
Responsibility is a character trait that many people like to see in a child. It can mean taking care of your own things, taking care of pets and family or even owning up to your own shortcomings. The children's picture book "Cat in the Hat" by Dr. Seuss tells the story of two children who are left at home on a wet, rainy day. They aren't supposed to have visitors, but a mischievous character, the Cat in the Hat, comes to visit. The children's fish tells them what the Cat is doing is not right, but the children don't know what to do about their strange guest. When he introduces Thing One and Thing Two, the Cat's displaying a destructive character trait. In the end, the Cat brings his Picker-Upper to clean up his mess and put the fish back in his bowl, unharmed. The book also opens the door for discussing honesty; the children have to decide whether they should tell their mother what happened.
Kindness is appreciated by everyone, but sometimes it is hard to follow through with it. Dell Comics has a long-running series of graphic literature that paints character traits in broad strokes. In "Casper: The Friendly Ghost," Casper and his friend Wendy take good care of the animals in their forest. Spooky, another ghost, likes to pull tricks on people but keeps his mean older brothers from doing bad things. You can use their antics to talk about being kind to others and the different degrees of kindness. You can relate chores like feeding pets to the way they the ghosts take care of things. You can discuss Spooky's relationship with his big brothers and how sometimes people act mean. Remind your child that doing kind things helps people to like you.
Respect can be a difficult character trait to define, but it is one that we want our children to have. You can begin by telling your child that you show respect by using "please" when you want something and saying "thank you" after you receive it. "Tea for Ruby" by Sarah Ferguson explains what a respectful child must not do when she visits the queen -- even when the queen turns out to be her grandmother. "Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners" by Stan and Jan Berenstain is another good picture book to use when discussing respect. "Noisy Nora" by Rosemary Wells is a story about a little girl who desperately wants attention but doesn't get it until she stops interrupting everyone and takes an unscheduled nap.
Learning to be honest while still being polite can be a real challenge for children. You can focus on good ways of being honest while using stories about real people, such as in the traditional story about Abraham Lincoln, who had to own up to ruining a borrowed book. Discuss with your child how hard it was for Abe to confess to ruining the prized book and how he worked hard to pay for it. You can examine the flip side of honesty by reading "Liar, Liar" by Gary Paulsen together. The main character, Kevin, demonstrates how telling lies can be very problematic.
- Read Write Think: Sample Character Traits
- Your Dictionary: Character Trait Examples
- Appalachian State University: Character Trait Descriptive Adjectives and Other Words
- Teacher Vision: Character Traits
- Cat in the Hat; Dr. Seuss
- Tea for Ruby; Sarah Ferguson
- Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books; Kay Winters
- Young Abe Lincoln: A Lesson in Choices
- Liar, Liar: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Deception; Gary Paulsen
- Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images