Character Development in Preschoolers

By K. Nola Mokeyane
Preschool is a fine time to teach kids to think of themselves and others.
Preschool is a fine time to teach kids to think of themselves and others.

If you look at the way we live today, you might think we've skimped on teaching children how to develop their character. Some kids don't even understand the definition of the words "respect" and "responsibility," according to a publication produced by Oklahoma State University. However, more parents are showing an interest in teaching their tots those valuable character skills, which is a welcome addition to our modern ability to send a text message voting for our favorite music idol.


Your preschooler is at a stage when his ability to communicate is still developing and his actions tend to be impulsive. The best way to teach your tot respect at this stage is to model respect in your own behavior. Say "please" and "thank you" to others while your preschooler observes you. You can teach your toddler respect for the environment by picking up trash along walks or in buildings, even when it's not yours. Teach your child to walk along walkways to keep grass nice and pretty.


When many preschoolers lie, it's not to be intentionally defiant. Remember, preschool kids don't think the way adults do. Dr. William Sears suggests that kids lie because they like to use their active imaginations to create fantasies or to avoid punishment. One way to teach honesty is to explain to your child the way honesty works. You can tell your tot that mistakes happen, and that's OK, but it's not OK to lie about the mistake. For instance, if your child takes a toy from day care or the playground that belongs to someone else and then lies about taking the toy, explain to him that it is not OK to take someone else's things, and it's also not OK to lie about it.


Preschoolers love to feel like they are the boss of something, so teaching responsibility is often one of the best character trait lessons a parent can offer. Giving your preschooler a reasonable chore in the home, such as helping you set the dinner table, allows your child to exercise their autonomy and helps develop responsibility. Charts are an effective way to teach your child responsibility and accountability. Creating a chart with daily grooming tasks, and having your child report to you each day when tasks are checked off, instills confidence and self-esteem in your tot. Be as creative as you'd like to be with the responsibility lesson. This lesson can go as far your imagination will take it!


Teaching your preschooler fairness can possibly keep him from becoming the neighborhood bully. Again, modeling the type of behavior you want to see in your child is one of the strongest lessons you can teach. Use everyday opportunities to teach your tot to be fair, such as dividing food items fairly among family members, or learning to share toys for an equal amount of time among friends. You can also use stories and movies to reinforce lessons on being fair toward others.

More on Character Development

The Josephson Institute suggests six pillars of character development: respect, responsibility, fairness, trustworthiness, caring and citizenship. You might also have other values of your own that you'd like to teach your child. The fact that you have an interest in teaching your child character traits is a solid step in the right direction. You're the biggest influence of character development that your child has so it's important to demonstrate the traits that you want to see in your child.

About the Author

K. Nola Mokeyane has written professionally since 2006, and has contributed to various online publications, including "Global Post" and Modern Mom. Nola enjoys writing about health, wellness and spirituality. She is a member of the Atlanta Writer's Club.