The Character Movement

What kind of person do you want to be?

By Joe Cavanaugh, Founder & CEO

We’ll be ringing in the new year in just a couple days and I’ve heard countless people talking about making New Year’s resolutions. I get it – it’s a natural time to reflect on your life and set goals for the future. But according to Forbes Magazine, just eight percent of Americans achieve their New Year’s goals. To avoid being in the eight percent group, we have a “less-annual” approach for goal-setting in our home.

Often at our Sunday night dinner, Jane and I ask Tess, “What type of girl do you want to be this upcoming week?” Jane and I also share what type of people we want to be for the coming week. We write down all of our answers on our kitchen bulletin board and refer to it during the week.

Lately, Tess has been saying that she wants to be a “kind” person. We write the word “kind” on the board and then refer to the concept of kindness throughout the week. We’ll come right out and ask her, “Tess, are you being the type of girl you said you wanted to be?” If she says “yes,” then we ask her how it feels to be the person she wants to be – and it always makes her feel good. If she says “no,” then we have a conversation about why she is struggling.

One good thing about this approach is that it gives ownership to the child in his/her own value system. Your kids will have a harder time complaining about lectures on values when they are part of the process of coming up with the value in the first place.

Allowing children to be part of their own character agenda also helps diffuse the power struggle between parent and child. Children feel enabled and empowered when we ask them how they can be better people. They’ll be more invested in the exploration and they’ll have a stronger understanding of the outcomes.

If you continue to have these kinds of conversations with your children, you’ll develop a common language for communicating about character. You can tell your child who is leaving for school in the morning, “Be the person you want to be” and they’ll know what you mean. You can remind your teenager when they leave the house on a Friday night to live out their values and they’ll immediately understand. They’ll know what you mean because they helped define it for themselves. We all need these constant reminders to live out our values and be the people we want to be. And, unlike New Year’s resolutions, this approach allows a person to recommit and re-evaluate their goals each week.

I wish you all a Happy New Year and thank you for reading this blog every week. It’s been a joy to share my thoughts my with you. I hope you find many quiet, happy moments in between the chaos of everyday life in the upcoming year.

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