By Brent Sitton
Every parent wants their child to develop positive character traits. One way to supplement your child’s character education is to act as a filter for the movies and television shows your child watches, and to review the books your child reads.
The following categories are modeled after “The Book of Virtues for Young People,” an excellent book for children in its own right, written by William Bennett. When developing a curriculum of character education for your child, it’s helpful to review each children’s book, television show, and movie for both positive and negative examples of each of the ten virtues outlined in “The Book of Virtues for Young People.” The stronger the message, the more it will contribute to your child’s character education.
Following are some ways in which the virtues can manifest as character traits in children’s books, movies, and in television shows:
Self-Discipline: A character discusses his feelings of anger rather than impulsively striking out. Or, a character gets his chores done before he goes out to play.
Compassion: A character understands the pain or suffering of a friend, and steps in to help, even when it means she can’t attend the party she was looking forward to.
Responsibility: A character admits it was his baseball that broke the window, and offers to pay for a replacement. Or, a character keeps her promise to babysit her younger sister, even though she’d rather go to the movies with her friends.
Friendship: A character stands up for her friend in front of her peers, even though it’s not popular. Or, a character befriends the class bully in an effort to get him to change his ways.
Work: A character approaches her job with a positive attitude, and does her very best even when her boss is being unfair. Or, a character makes up a game to get through an unpleasant task, and takes pride in her work even though it goes unnoticed.
Courage: A character is afraid of the raging waters, but takes the risk and dives in to save her family. Or, a character stands up for what he believes in, even though it’s unpopular.
Perseverance: A character continues to strive to make the basketball team, even though he’s a foot shorter than the other players. Or, a family works together to keep their home, even though the father has lost his job and the mother is ill.
Honesty: A character admits to himself that he isn’t trying his hardest. Or, a character talks to an adult about a friend in trouble, even though the friend will get angry at her.
Loyalty: A character sticks with his losing soccer team in the hope of helping them become better, rather than joining a winning soccer team. Or, a character stays at her friend’s side during a serious illness or hardship.
Faith: A character reaches out to God to help him in his time of need.
When evaluating character traits and virtues in kids’ books, movies, and television shows, also look at negative behavioral influences. Ideally, these influences will be minimal. Consider, for example:
Violence: Does the character hurt himself, another person, or an animal through his words or actions, and does he act without remorse?
Profanity: Does the character use foul language, sexual language, or take God’s name in vain?
Nudity: Does the movie, television show, or book show or describe suggestive styles of dress or partially clothed or nude characters?
Sexual Content: Do the characters engage in implied or overt sexual behavior, or do they engage in aberrant sexual behavior?
Drugs, Alcohol, and Tobacco: Do the characters use or abuse legal or illegal substances?
Scary Elements: Are the scenarios depicted gratuitously frightening?
Negative Behaviors: Does the character show disrespect to his parents? Or, does he neglect his homework? Or, does he frighten other children?
By evaluating both the positive character traits and negative behaviors of movies, television shows, and books, and selecting those that reinforce the values and virtues that are important to you, you’ll go far in developing your child’s character education.