Teaching Good Character

List of Dominant Traits in Humans

Facial Features


Facial features are often a mix of dominant and recessive genes from parents. People with dimples have inherited a dominant gene, while those without have the recessive trait. People with freckles have inherited at least one pair of dominant genes, while those without freckles have inherited two recessive genes. Unattached earlobes is a dominant trait; those with attached earlobes have inherited the recessive gene.


Blue eyes are a recessive trait.
Blue eyes are a recessive trait.

Brown eyes are a dominant gene, while gray, green, hazel and blue eyes are recessive traits. Many people have varying levels of vision such as farsightedness, nearsightedness and colorblindness. Farsightedness is a dominant trait, and those with nearsightedness and colorblindness have inherited recessive traits.


Curly hair is a dominant trait.
Curly hair is a dominant trait.

Naturally curly hair is a dominant gene, while the gene for straight hair is recessive. A widow's peak is a dominant trait; those with a straight hairline have inherited the recessive gene. Many men suffer from the dominant trait of male pattern baldness, while a full head of hair is a recessive trait in men. People with dark hair have inherited the dominant trait, while those with blonde, light or red hair have the recessive trait.


Genes determine which hand you write with.
Genes determine which hand you write with.

Right-handed people have inherited the dominant gene, while lefties have the recessive gene. Rolling up the lateral edges of your tongue into a tube involves a dominant gene, while those who are unable to do so have the recessive gene for tongue rolling. Being able to bend your pinky toward your ring finger is a dominant trait; those who cannot have inherited the recessive gene.

Activities or Crafts to Teach Children About Character

Fruits of the Spirit Memory Game

Galatians 5:22-23 says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Help your child bring this Bible verse to life by making a memory game that pairs pictures of various types of fruit with each of these words. Have each player give an example of the listed character trait whenever a pair of matching cards is found.

Homemade Thank You Notes

Making thank you notes can teach young children about gratitude, creativity and thriftiness. Thank you notes can be sent for gifts your child has received or for special favors that someone has done. For example, a child could send a thank you note to Grandma that shows appreciation for the plate of chocolate chip cookies she sent over as an unexpected treat. Encourage your child to make homemade thank you notes using recycled materials such as old wrapping paper scraps or pretty pictures cut from junk mail you've received. Your child could also decorate his thank you notes with hand print art, such as a hand print heart made by overlapping two red hand prints.

Acts of Kindness Jar

To encourage kids to be kind, make an acts of kindness jar from a clean glass jar and some strips of colored construction paper. Write one example of an act of kindness on each slip of paper. Acts should be age-appropriate, but could include tasks such as helping a neighbor rake leaves, washing the dishes after dinner without being asked or drawing a picture to send to a relative who lives far away. Every day or two, let your child pick a strip from the jar and complete the activity. Put a colored marble in a second jar each time your child finishes an act of kindness. When the second jar is full of marbles, plan a special family outing to celebrate.

Character Trait Puppet Shows

To teach your child about character traits in a fun and entertaining way, consider putting on a puppet show where he can demonstrate ways to show specific traits. You can either base your puppet shows on popular children's books or make up new stories together. For example, a puppet show about compassion and sensitivity could feature a dog who goes out of his way to become friends with a cat after the other dogs in the neighborhood try to chase the cat away. A puppet show about responsibility could feature a boy who takes pride in taking care of his baby sister by making sure that she doesn't accidentally choke on one of his toys.

How to Teach Children to Use Good Judgment

Provide your youngster with continual instruction about right and wrong to instill a moral compass, advises the U.S. Department of Education “Helping Your Child Become a Responsible Citizen” pamphlet. The opportunity for teachable moments can happen throughout every day, so utilize them daily. For example, your children can learn valuable skills for getting along, sharing and helping as they interact with siblings. As you encounter media examples of conduct and interaction, call out mistakes or errors when you see them – someone lying or stealing, for example.

Model good judgment for your child to witness to help her learn from your positive example. Think before acting, use wisdom in decisions and proceed with self-control and respect as you interact with others. If possible, include your child in the process of using good judgment to demonstrate a positive outcome.

Encourage your child to take a moment before making decisions to ensure that he has enough time to apply good judgment, suggests the SchoolFamily website. As he considers options, help him think through each possible solution to visualize the outcome. For example, if a friend presents him with a negative idea for a Friday night activity, your youngster should take the necessary time to think through the possible outcomes of breaking rules and engaging in risky behavior, which enables him to make a positive choice.

Focus on the positive character traits that make anyone capable of good judgment. Traits such as assertiveness, motivation, confidence, responsibility, enthusiasm and respect are conducive to helping a child develop good judgment skills, according to the Warren-Walker School website. When you see your child exhibiting these traits, call attention to the situation so she can feel empowered by positive behavior.

Talk about the importance of intuition with your youngster. Sometimes an opportunity or idea will present itself to your child with an accompanying alarm that goes off inside him. If he feels this nagging intuition about an idea or an activity, it’s often beneficial to listen to it because it could be communicating a warning that he should avoid something.

Expect that developing good judgment will take time and practice. As your child grows and matures, she will slowly develop stronger judgment skills that she can use in a variety of situations. Remain available to listen and brainstorm, as necessary, to help your child solidify her judgment skills.

How to Teach Children to Be Kind and Compassionate

Forbid rude behavior. According to a CNN Parenting.com article, "How to Raise a Compassionate Child," not allowing rude behavior in your house under any circumstance is a good way to promote kindness. Rudeness is disrespectful and being disrespectful is the antithesis of compassionate and kind. For example, if your child hits her sister, immediately use a firm but quiet tone to tell her that physical violence is never acceptable and you will not permit that type of behavior.

Explain kindness to your child as often as possible, advises Parent and Child Magazine. If your child helps you pick up the toys in the living room before bedtime without being asked, thank him. However, do not simply tell him, “Thank you,” and move on. Thank him and explain to him why you are thanking him. For example, “Thank you, son, for helping me pick up the toys in the living room without being asked. That is very kind of you.” This helps him by providing a concrete example of what kindness looks like.

Use teachable moments to encourage your child to become kind and compassionate. For example, if you see a teenager helping an elderly person load the back of her car with groceries in the rain, talk to your child about the situation. Explain to him that kindness and compassion are at play here; the teenager was kind enough to help someone who needed it even though the weather isn’t ideal and that he is compassionate enough to notice her need in the first place.

Model kindness and compassion in front of your child. According to Suzanne Coyle, Ph.D., mother and director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, the example you set for your child is the one she uses to determine what is considered appropriate behavior. For example, if you say negative things about people when they are not around, your child will learn to view this as acceptable behavior, even though it is nowhere near kind or compassionate.

How to Teach Children Not to Step on Caterpillars

Show your child a picture of a caterpillar or give her one to hold. Explain that the caterpillar is a living creature and that it is not acceptable for her to step on one. She might not know this action is wrong unless you tell her, especially if she has seen someone stepping on a caterpillar in the past.

Give your child a consequence if she steps on a caterpillar. The consequence should be related to the child's age. Younger children might need to sit in time-out or give up one of their favorite toys. Older children might need to read a book and write a report on caterpillars or help at an animal shelter.

Demonstrate kindness toward caterpillars in front of your child. If you see one on a sidewalk, pick it up and set it down on a leaf so it won't be accidentally stepped on.

Give your child a caterpillar to take care of. The caterpillar will need a Mason jar or plastic container to live in until it transforms into a butterfly. Add a stick to the jar for the caterpillar to crawl on, plant leaves to munch on and a spritz of water every day for a drink. Once the caterpillar becomes a butterfly, you can take your child outside to set it free.

Praise your child every time he treats a caterpillar with kindness. Let him know which positive character traits he is displaying, which will help him develop a positive self-perception, PBS Kids' Sprout Online recommends.

Things You Will Need

  • Caterpillar
  • Picture of a caterpillar
  • Mason jar
  • Stick
  • Plant leaves
  • Misting bottle


Read your child the book, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," by Eric Carle, if you can't physically care for a caterpillar. Your child will still get to see the transformation the caterpillar makes in the book.

Goals of Character Development Courses for Children

What is Character?

Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden wrote, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” In “Hamlet," William Shakespeare wrote, “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” Character is what you are on the deepest level and what ultimately governs your actions. Character development courses seek to shape an individual so that the foundation of that individual is positive. Positive character drives the individual to act in ways that are compassionate, honest, courageous, responsible and self-disciplined, according to the introduction in former U.S. drug czar William Bennett’s book, “The Book of Virtues.”

Identifying Traits

A character development course lists the traits the author feels are vital to healthy and responsible living. That list can vary from one course to another. Some courses could base most or all of their chosen traits on the Bible or some other sacred text. Others could base their list on secular works or those traits the author feels most benefit the student. If a child is deficient in one or more of the listed traits, the parent can spend more time developing those traits and less time on the traits the child has mastered.

Teach by Example

Kids' character development courses often use stories to help a child understand and nurture desirable traits. When you use a character development course for your child, use it to reinforce your own moral compass. Children simply will not do what you tell them to do if you insist on doing the exact opposite, according to Tim Markley, superintendent of schools in Wilmington, North Carolina. The stories and activities only provide the walls and roof of your character house -- your living example provides the foundation your children build upon. That could make you self-conscious or it could inspire you to provide the best example your child could have.

The Right Choice

Character development courses help your child discover what right actions are expected and the consequences for both good and bad choices. For example, Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” presents the negative consequences of miserly behavior and positive consequences of compassion. Your child can listen to the stories and determine which actions are appropriate for living, such as telling the truth, showing compassion and following through with your promises.

How to Support Children's Social & Moral Behavior With Literature

Support Social and Moral Behavior with Literature

Choose a trait to focus on. You can pick a character pillar such as trustworthiness, respect, caring, responsibility, fairness, citizenship or a simpler skill such as sharing or taking turns, depending on the age of your children.

Find books that illustrate that trait. Talk to your local librarian or bookseller or use one of the lists in the resources below. Some books that illustrate respect, for example, are "Arthur's Nose" by Marc Brown, "Clancy's Coat" by Eve Bunting, "Frog and Toad are Friends" by Arnold Lobel and "The Grouchy Ladybug" by Eric Carle.

Introduce the trait. Before reading the book to your children, let them know they'll be learning about a particular character trait or social skill. See what they know about it already.

Read the story. Take your time as you read, pause to ask or answer questions. Bring up the social and moral trait you are teaching.

Discuss the story and trait. After reading, review what happened in the story and how the characters did or did not use the trait.

Illustrate the trait. Children can draw a picture of the characters using the trait. Older children can retell that part of the story in their own words.

Find the trait. When you read other books, watch TV shows or play games, remind children of the story you read together and the social behavior it illustrated. See whether they can relate it to other stories or life experiences.


If children have trouble responding to the book through drawing or writing, have them act out the meaningful parts of the story.


Don't assume that one book about respect will be enough to teach children respect. They'll need to hear several stories, and several more as they age, for literature to support their moral and social development.