Some time ago, I asked a group of parents to list the qualities they wanted their children to possess as they grew older. The initial responses were character traits such as:
Only after those initial character qualities were suggested did some parents begin to offer other qualities they desired for their children like:
Typical moral categories aren't enough.
Notice that the first list fell within very typical moral categories that represents what we think of as "good behavior." Yet the qualities on the second list are also critical for development. Traits like "empathetic awareness," "discernment" [needed for problem-solving] and "sense of purpose" are also needed for relational and emotional health, yet are not often the first things we think of when it comes to character development.
Children are often taught both in school and at home to be "kind" or "respectful" or good "team players" [all potentially forms of compliance to get them to be more manageable]; while ignoring qualities like "play," "risk-taking," and "redemptive suffering."
Teaching our kids to be disruptive
Though we want our kids to "show respect towards authority," we would never think of teaching our children how to be redemptively-disruptive - standing against injustice when it is warranted - because Jesus' cleansing of the temple doesn't look like "self-control" to us. Or that addressing injurious authority may sometimes be warranted because there are still "white-washed tombs" and "broods of vipers" using power and entitlement to lord it over those they should serve.
Redefining "morality" for our kids
How have you been taught to view "character" and "morality?" Strictly in terms of good behavior? What other traits would you consider listing that you hope to instill in your child?