Back to School and Building Character


Over 25 years ago my wife and I brought an educator and author of parent books to speak with a group of parents. The theme of his talk was how much emphasis we place on forming our kids’ intellect through education and yet compromise the formation of their will and developing good habits. We emphasize subjects like math, science or reading so our kids can get good grades, get into college, and find jobs. The trouble is we forget to also prioritize their character development so that they can develop the habits that will sustain their success and happiness in the future. This author told us that if we formed our kids in good habits they will be successful no matter what they do. 

We want our kids to be smart but not at the cost of their character.

Kids will be heading back to school shortly. The purpose of school is to supplement the development of our children to become independent, responsible, caring and good adults. This is a good time as parents to set a goal of what character you want your children to learn and develop over this next school year and then help them through example and guided practice to develop the good habits that make up character.

Being smart doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness. Being good and giving ourselves to others does. Before your kids go to school sit down individually or as a couple and analyze each one of your kid’s character strengths. Each child, as an individual, thinks and feels differently. Analyze their character, both strengths and flaws, and work with them to help your kids discover specific ways to replace a bad habit with a good one. Begin developing habits such as integrity, respect, generosity, self-control, gratitude and other good habits. Since your kids will be back in the school routine, this is a great time to also develop them in their character.

One of the biggest mistakes I made as a father was to think that I could outsource my child’s development to a school, a church or a sports program. When my children became adolescents, I realized that they had become very smart but they didn’t have the good habits which make for good adults and ultimately lead to their happiness. As a father and grandfather, I can honestly say that you’re only as happy as your most unhappy child. Whatever work it takes to develop your children to become good adults is worth it in the long run.

When we began to work with our children on growing in good habits we watched how much happier they became and they began to live a fuller life. They are now adults, all of them married with children. It is such a gift to see them now living responsible, inter-dependent lives as good adults, doing good things for their families and others.


Meet Steve!

Steve is the Founder and CEO of Families of Character. Together, he and his wife raised five grown children. Their family continues to grow each year with the arrival of new grandchildren. Steve founded Families of Character in response to the needs revealed within his own household and now is delighted to share the benefits of growing in character with families everywhere.


VirtueSteve MarkelComment