Teaching Character Series: Gentleness, Gratefulness, Generosity

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: having good character matters. Regardless of whether you’re a religious homeschooling family or secular homeschoolers, we can all agree that helping your children develop good character is important.

Practical examples always help. What do strong character traits look like in action? 

  • Advising payroll about an overpayment on your paycheck. 
  • Completing the extra, necessary work when you’d rather not. 
  • Doing a good job even when you think it doesn’t matter or no one is checking. 
  • Playing fair. 
  • Paying taxes in full. 
  • Doing something helpful even if no one will know it was you. 
  • Taking as much care with menial tasks as you do for important tasks. 
  • Following through with chores before you’re asked twice. 
  • Taking care of someone else’s responsibilities when they are unable.

There are many ways to demonstrate good character, but that’s a start. 

We want our children to be good people with kind hearts, and that’s the root of character training. 

Just as with other skills or personality temperaments, character traits must be learned, practiced, and mirrored. Your children need to be taught why these traits matter, how to work on them, opportunities to practice, and also, they need to see you reflecting good character. 

You, as their parent, are their biggest role model.

This is the fourth installment in our character training series. We’ll cover:

  • How to Teach Gentleness
  • How to Teach Gratefulness
  • How to Teach Generosity
  • Homeschooling Resources for Character Training

How to Teach Gentleness

Gentleness refers to being kind, good-mannered, and aware of propriety. Synonyms of gentleness include carefulness, cautious, and pliability. These words refer to a character development trait that exhibits an open mind to teaching, hesitation to jump to negativity or conclusions, and awareness of fragility, whether in people, inanimate objects, or animals. 

Gentleness is all about filtering our actions and speech to ensure they are considerate, helpful, and thoughtful.

Learning about gentleness is an important aspect of building character. Children need to know to be careful toward smaller, younger, or weaker people and animals. We learn to control what we say in consideration of others.

WHY is gentleness important?

  • Gentle people can help defuse stressful situations.
  • Gentleness is a balm to hurting people.
  • Gentle people show reactions matter
  • Gentleness demonstrates care for intentional actions, like kindness.
  • Gentleness is the opposite of egotism and bullying.

HOW can your children learn gentleness?

  • For Christian homeschoolers, read about gentleness in the Bible.
  • Demonstrate gentleness in your actions. 
      • I wonder if we could reduce our irritable knee-jerk reactions or loud voices in stressful situations. Maybe we could take a breath instead and walk away before we decide how to react.
      • Show the importance of a gentle spirit toward animals.
  • Talk about practical examples of gentleness.
      • Not hurting siblings, physically and emotionally.
      • Talking through emotions instead of yelling.
      • Remembering life is not a competition.
  • Emphasize that gentleness is NOT a weakness.
      • In fact, gentleness shows strength of spirit to practice control and kindness.
  • Encourage them to think of weekly opportunities for practicing gentleness.
    • Closing doors quietly.
    • Keeping inside voices.
    • Being considerate of when others are sleeping, tired, or sick.
    • Helping the elderly.
    • Caring for animals.

How to Teach Gratefulness

Gratefulness is one of the most wonderful character traits for both children and adults. Gratitude is unique because it not only positively affects the people around us, but it also influences our mindsets. Gratitude helps shift our perspective in life to see the good in moments and people–the “silver lining.”

Practicing gratitude spreads cheer to those around us. At the same time, gratefulness begets gratefulness, which becomes a cycle of genuine positivity. Gratitude boosts our brain health and resiliency.

WHY is gratefulness important?

  • Focusing on gratitude helps us push past difficult or even tragic life situations.
  • A heart of gratitude will encourage happiness and joy organically.
  • When someone expresses gratitude to others, the feeling is contagious.
  • Practicing gratitude shifts our mindsets from feelings of lack to feelings of thankfulness.
    • It can be easy to focus on hard things and forget about the wonderful aspects of our life.
  • Mindfulness is the practice of a daily centering our thoughts on gratitude. 
    • This is called positive psychology, and it can make a massive difference for people feeling overwhelmed by discouragement. Start small. Every baby step counts!

HOW can your children learn gratefulness?

  • Look into Scripture about gratitude.
  • Start gratitude journals. 
      • Every day, they should write down five things for which they are grateful. Nothing is insignificant. Even if it’s just a new TV show or a comfortable pair of shoes. Gratitude is gratitude, regardless!
  • Discuss practical examples of gratefulness. 
      • It goes beyond saying “thank you.” Gratitude is about truly feeling touched by the thoughtful actions of others and noticing the positives of our situation in life.
        • However, avoid “toxic positivity.” This is an extreme that dismisses anything difficult or painful by comparing to others having it worse or saying “you shouldn’t be upset.” There is no hierarchy of pain. It’s not a competition. Someone else’s immensely difficult life situation does not make yours any less real.
          • Sometimes, positive psychology simply cannot fix the pain. At that point, it’s important to acknowledge it for what it is. Give it time. (You can’t heal a broken leg by refusing to use crutches.) Repressing pain is not the same as working through it.
  • As always, demonstrate gratefulness yourself.
    • Thank your kids when they’ve completed something as asked. Even with regular chores. After all, don’t you appreciate that they checked it off?
    • Show gratefulness to others around you. Your spouse, parents, siblings, in-laws, co-op friends, church attendees, etc. Make sure you are “caught” expressing thank yous and talking about how much you appreciate various things.

How to Teach Generosity

Also known as altruism, selflessness, benevolence, philanthropy, and charity, generosity encompasses many aspects of kindness. When working on character development, generosity is a foundational trait to emulate. 

Generosity leads to recognizing the value in other people, our equality, and understanding good morals. Building character with generosity is about more than merely teaching kids to share, it’s also about a generosity of spirit–which includes helping the less fortunate, playing fair, paying it forward, and expressing kindness or justice regardless of unappreciation. A generosity of spirit is an aspect of integrity: who we are when we’re alone.

WHY is generosity important?

  • Sharing with others in need shows kindness
  • Generosity acknowledges the value of other people, especially when they are in less fortunate circumstances.
  • Generosity prioritizes people above possessions.
  • A generous spirit is vital to building relationships.
    • All relationships require give-and-take. If a person only takes, they will drain the other person and leave them to solely support a one-way friendship.

HOW can your children learn generosity?

  • Consider Biblical examples together.
  • Demonstrate generosity to your children. 
    • Let them “catch you” offering larger portions of dinner to the other family members.
    • Discuss that everyone’s voice matters and when some people are hurt, helping them is the right thing to do.
    • Bring them along when you serve at a soup kitchen, discuss why you donate instead of selling/trashing items, and involve them in contributing to a Go Fund Me.
    • Generosity can be as simple as letting someone onto the freeway ahead of you, taking an extra second to hold open a door, picking up an item someone dropped, and so on.
  • Have them think of practical ways they can show generosity.
    • Letting their sibling have a turn at their new toy.
    • Looking ahead and writing out gift ideas for birthdays and Christmas.
    • Offering their free time to help a sibling or friend study.

Homeschooling Resources for Character Training

As homeschooling parents, you are deeply invested in your child’s education. Whether you began homeschooling by choice or out of necessity, you are now in the driver’s seat and you’ll want to make sure they have the best experience possible.

Thankfully, creating a great learning environment is one of the best perks of homeschooling! If you are a Christian family, homeschooling allows for numerous custom lessons for teaching God’s truth and principles. Regardless of your curriculum, you can make it your own by explaining how lessons point back to Christ.

This is why one of our favorite approaches to character training is with a daily devotional or a Bible curriculum. By nature, these Scripture-inspired studies will impart important principles of character development.

However, even if you’re not a religious homeschooler, character development is equally important. That’s why this list includes both religious and neutral resources for building character.

First, be sure to take a look at the previous installments in our Character Training series:

Next, here are some of our favorite resources for working on character development with our children. Enjoy!