Working with Teachers and Schools to Build Character -- Helping Your Child Become a Responsible Citizen

Research indicates that children take values seriously only when they see that the adults they respect agree, at least in general, with those values. Although parents must be the ones to determine which values they want their children to develop, they need the help of the community, particularly the schools, in reinforcing those values. Here are some suggestions for ways that you can work with your child's teachers and other school officials to make sure that you are all "on the same page" in terms of the basic values that you want your child to learn and use:

Childlike drawing of a mother speaking with a teacher.
  • Visit with your child's teachers early in the school year. Tell them what kind of person you want your child to become and what values are important to you. Discuss with them ways that they and the school can reinforce the lessons you are teaching your child about good character.

  • If the school has a character education program, or if character education is part of the curriculum, ask for a description of the program or curriculum and talk with teachers about how you can help reinforce the lessons at home. If the school does not have a character education program, work with the school and local community to begin one.

  • Be alert for and communicate with teachers when the school is giving your child conflicting messages about values. For example, your child's teacher might stress the importance of not cheating, while her coach stresses the importance of doing whatever you have to do in order to win. Some teachers might demand that students come to class with all the materials they need for the day's work; others might let them borrow from each other or sit in class without materials. Some might set strict policies about how homework is to be done and when it must be turned in; others might have no clear policies—or assign no homework at all.

  • Work with other parents and parent groups to help your child's school establish and maintain high standards for behavior both in school and at after-school events, such as ball games or concerts. Help to set up a list of volunteers for supervising school activities or chaperoning field trips to museums, libraries and other activities. In addition, you might meet with other parents to agree on standards of behavior for activities outside of school, such as parties.

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Last Modified: 10/08/2003