Very few could argue with the title of this book, Character Is The Key, by Sara Dimerman. It is to many parents an obvious goal of good parenting, teaching a child moral fibre and building great people, leaders and compassionate adults. But how to get there? It is so easy to get caught up in the daily ins and outs of parenting that character-building could easily be a topic that is neglected or placed on a backburner. For this group, Character Is The Key, subtitled How To Unlock The Best In Our Children And Ourselves, could be a worthwhile guide causing one to reevaluate old parenting styles and strategies for ones that focus on building the emotional intelligence of our children. For those who feel they are already on the path towards mindfully creating and moulding characters with integrity Dimerman’s book could be used as a supplementary tool. Dimerman, a parent, therapist, columnist, author and frequent contributor to Today’s Parent, was highly involved in the Character Matters program that was applied in schools throughout the York District in wake of the Columbine tragedy, and other high profile media reports of bullying and violence. The author draws on and refers to this program in many spots. Out of that program evolved 10 key characteristics that schools, parents and communities all agreed were key to producing young adults with substance and strength. The 10 virtues were: respect, responsibility, honesty, empathy, fairness, initiative, courage, perseverance, optimism and integrity. Dimerman advises families to tailor these to fit their own beliefs and priorities. Not surprisingly, Dimerman views modelling as a key tenet of consciously building children with strong character. Most of us already do this and much of Dimerman’s book is common sense parenting, but the next step to modelling in terms of character building comes with the reflection involved in evaluating why we as parents make the choices and actions we do. In reflecting gently and in age appropriate ways that are not heavy handed one can reinforce character or empathy or respect. When my own children were very small and even still now at five and eight, I would often say to them if a friend was sick, “Jack is sick today. He cannot come for a play date.” Then giving them permission to feel disappointed for a few minutes I would often take it one step further with: “I feel sad that he is sick. What can we do to help him feel better?” This type of reflection would often result in my own children drawing cards or baking cookies or calling their sick friend. Now, without any prompting at all both of my girls will often quickly do this type of reflection on their own and are usually the first ones problem-solving how to help people in heartfelt ways. While this has always been second nature to us in our home, I still enjoyed reading the book as it supports my own views that we are on the right path towards developing great children. Character Is The Key is by Sara Dimerman, published this year by John Wiley and Sons Canada, $23.95 Canadian and $19.95 US.
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