Good Character for Kids: How to Raise Gracious Kids

In our hurry-up culture where politeness and courtesy often fall by the wayside, it can be hard to raise children who know how to be gracious.

There are lots of reasons to want your children to be gracious people. Most importantly, it equips them to treat others with the kindness and consideration that they deserve. But beyond that, it sends a very positive message to the world about the kind of people your children are. These skills will help them create a positive impression and build important relationships, especially with those who value gracious attitudes in others!

1. Make sure they understand why.

Graciousness, which is most easily expressed through good manners, isn’t about following a set of rules or trying to be “fancy.” It’s about considering the needs of others before our own, and acting in a way which shows it. (For instance, we don’t talk with mouths full of food because it might be unappetizing for others at the table to see.) It’s all about learning to think through how our choices affect those around us.

2. Define “grace.”

Some of the most gracious and endearing people in the world are those who are kind and considerate even toward those who don’t reciprocate or “deserve” it.  Grace is defined as unmerited favor. Train your children to choose graciousness even when it’s hard, or seems unappreciated. Again, it will say volumes about who your child is both to the other person and casual observers.

3. Cultivate a gracious heart.

Start at the root of graciousness by helping your child learn to think and react toward others in a caring way. If the heart (i.e. the attitude) is right, the outward graciousness (actions and words) will come together more easily and will be authentic. If the manners that suggest graciousness aren’t backed up by a heart that matches, that thin veneer will crack pretty easily, and the “real” kid will come out.

4. Model it.

Nothing will help your child learn to be gracious toward others more effectively than watching you demonstrate it daily. Toward friends and neighbors, toward the server helping your family in a restaurant, toward the person who has wronged or offended you. Your decision to respond with grace when it’s easy and when it’s hard is a powerful teacher.

5. Reward it.

Don’t miss an opportunity to reinforce graciousness in your children! When you observe them thinking of others and acting accordingly, don’t forget to mention it later and tell them how proud you were. We all need affirmation to choose the right thing when our nature is to constantly think of ourselves. If your child makes important strides or progress in this area, you might even celebrate with a trip out for ice cream or a special dinner.

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