The Character Construction Site:


The true measure of character rests in our actions-not in mere thoughts.

Definition of Integrity
Knowing the right and decent way to act and acting that way.


  • Be a strong moral example.
  • Develop a close, mutually respectful relationship.
  • Share your moral beliefs.
  • Expect and demand moral behaviors.
  • Use moral reasoning and questioning. -“Why do you think I’m concerned?”, “How would you feel if someone treated you that way?”, or “If you don’t follow through on your word, what do you think will happen in my trust for you?”
  • Plainly explain the reasons behind your parenting rules so the children can clearly understand.

Family Activities



  • "Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking."  H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Moral Discipline
A big part of childhood is learning how to turn wrongs around and make them right.  The way you react to your child’s unethical behavior can be critical to whether they learn from their mistakes and expand in their moral understanding.  This is the best type of discipline for helping kids learn right from wrong and develop solid moral reasoning so that they can make good moral choices and develop strong consciences.

The four R’s of moral discipline are:

  • First R-Respond calmly and assess the child’s intention
  • Second R-Review why the behavior is wrong
  • Third R-Reflect on the behavior’s effects
  • Fourth R-Right the wrong by encouraging the child to make reparation

Make a virtue mobile.
Construct a mobile from an old clothes hanger and yarn.  Your child can draw or cut out pictures of his deserved virtuous characteristics-honest, considerate, kind, fair-on paper shapes at least six inches in size.  Then cut them out and attach them from the hanger with yarn lengths.  You can even glue a few pieces of cloudy cotton around the edges to give it a real “cloudy” feel.  Hang the mobile over the child’s bed and remind him or her of her virtues every night and morning.

Create a virtue scrapbook.
Use a small photo album, photos, magazine cutouts, and marking pens, to create a scrapbook of your child’s “goodness’s”.  Picture kindness towards animals, loyalty to his family, determination in soccer, and assertiveness in saying his point of view.  Make it with your child or do it yourself and present this “Good Kid” book to him or her. 

Develop a virtue self-portrait
Start by drawing an outline of your child on butcher paper; hand it up.  Over the next few weeks, gradually begin to fill in the outline with pictures-from newspapers, magazines, photographs, drawings, or computer-generated graphics-that depict your child’s newly acquired virtues. You could also use a digital camera.  For example:  a photograph of her studying to represent her responsibility, a drawing showing her arm around someone to depict kindness, cutout letters of the words peaceful, self-disciplined, and respectful to represent those virtues.  Continue to add images to the portrait as new virtues develop in your child. 

Junior High

Together memorize one of these statements:

  • “I think I can!” from The Little Engine That Could.
  • Attitude over aptitude.
  • Effort makes ability. 
  • Great efforts make great results.
  • Nothing can stop the person with the right attitude; nothing can help the person with the wrong one.

Building Blocks
This is a simple tool for building effort.  All of us - pa\rents, children, teachers, and students - travel through these phases within a myriad of activities.  We might be at all three levels in different endeavors at any given time.  Progress may not occur overnight, but it can happen in a steady fashion so long as we stay on course.  The one variable that we cannot control is the timetable of our children’s or our students’ growth. 

  • Motions - The individual follows the motions of responsible behavior.
  • Effort - The individual begins to take pride in meeting his or her given challenges.
  • Excellence - The individual begins to pursue his or her best.

A child or student operating below motions is considered “off-track.”

Building Blocks A chain reaction An evolutionary process
Excellence Giver

  • Concept of one’s BEST.
  • Student is majority shareholder.
  • Prime the pump: givers assume responsibility for the growth of the takers.
  • Parents and teachers let go.

Effort Doer

  • Beginnings of a positive attitude.
  • If I have to do this, I might as well do it well.
  • Expectations are shared.  A parent - child or student - teacher partnership begins to evolve.
  • Creativity begins.     

Foundation Motions

  • The motions of responsible behavior
  • Move the body and the mind will follow.
  • Expectations are set by the  parents.
  • Sometimes an unpleasant phase.  


Chair Exercise

Materials:  Chair, paper, pen and 30 minutes.

Explanation:  One parent should take the lead.  Hold the chair over your shoulder.  (You can do this by locking your arms through the rungs on the back of the chair.)  Walk around the space in front of the family and ask them, “What do you think about me? (Most of them will laugh and say they think you may be a little crazy.)  Then ask the family to think about attitudes they carry just like you are carrying the chair.  Ask them to write down an attitude they may be carrying that is unproductive.  Some questions to ask that may be helpful are:

  • “Do you think you need to carry this chair (attitude)?”
  • “What would happen if you put the chair (attitude) down?”
  • “What chairs (attitudes) do we carry as a family?”

Effort/Attitude Chart
Materials:  Large piece of paper for each chart, marker, tape, 15 minutes
Explanation:  Have each family member come up with one to three areas of aptitude they would like to improve upon.  Create a chart for each person and decide on a time frame to chart (week, month, etc.).  Then set up the chart so that one axis is the aptitude and the other represents the attitude/effort.  Each week, make an entry about how each family member is addressing that skill or area of improvement.  At the end of the time frame, sit down as a family and talk about the results. 

Some questions to ask:

  • “Did you find improving you’re attitude helped improve you’re aptitude?”
  • “How did you improve your attitude?”
  • “Can you carry this into other areas?”

“Family Risk Tree”

Materials: Paper and supplies to make a large tree trunk and a box of plain “leaves” to put by the tree. 30 minutes will be needed to put up the tree and then daily/weekly input.
Explanation: This exercise helps encourage risk-taking as a key factor in developing attitude and aptitude.  It may be helpful to first talk about risks and define the term: “What are dangerous risks to take as opposed to risks taken to encourage growth?”

Brainstorm some important risks:

  • Speaking up in class or at work
  • Meeting a new friend
  • Learning a new move in sports
  • Saying no to something that may cause rejection
  • Singing a song
  • Getting in shape
  • Looking for a job
  • Asking for more responsibility

Leave the box of leaves by the “tree”.  As family members take risks, they are to label their act and tape it to the tree.  At the end of a week or month, the family can get together and review the tree.

Some questions to ask:

  • “What did I learn from taking that risk?”
  • “What has been difficult?”
  • “Has my aptitude improved as a result?”
  • “Has my attitude improved as a result?”
  • “Has my family seen any change in me?”

These comments and exercises were excerpted and adapted with the author’s permission from Building Moral Intelligence by Michele Borba, Ed.D., Jossey-Bass, 2001.  For more information visit,  This is an excellent book that covers seven essential virtues.  Dr. Borba was the very popular LGUSD Parent Ed Council speaker for 2001.

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