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Articles by Dr. Scott Turansky

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Dr. Scott Turansky

Dr. Scott Turansky offers moms practical, real-life advice for many of parenting’s greatest challenges. read bio

Character Training Step 3: Solution – Name and Define Each Solution

During the solution step, you determine the character qualities on which each child needs to work. Focus on the positive. One mom, thrilled to discover this step, said, "This is changing the way I relate to my son, Devin. I used to focus on the negative: 'Get your shoes. Clean your room. Where's your backpack? You left your bike out again?' Now I still have to discipline him, but I've used the character quality of organization to direct my discussion. I feel like I'm teaching him something for the future, not just complaining about the present."

Sometimes a number of character qualities would help your child in a particular area, but start with just one. Be careful not to try to change too much too quickly. (Some children can handle two character-development programs at the same time, but few can handle more than that without feeling overwhelmed.) Choose a name for the quality you want to work on, and then define it in a way that is easy for the child to understand. Don't use dictionary definitions; use working definitions. The name of this positive character quality and its definition will provide direction for your child and for you, so it's clear to you both what your child is working on.

Identifying a positive character quality gives each child something to work toward. Many children know their weaknesses all too well. They have become magnets for correction, and they know they disappoint themselves and others with their mistakes. Romans 5:4 says that building character produces hope, an important quality that each child desperately needs.

When you discuss this positive character quality, spend a few minutes giving the child a vision for why it's helpful. You might say, for example, "When you develop this quality in your life, you'll be more successful because…" A positive character quality gives your child a target to shoot for. Give him or her a vision for change by explaining the value of the particular character quality you'll be working on.

Sometimes people ask us for our working definitions of certain positive character qualities. Here are some definitions to get you thinking. They will also help you learn how to create your own working definitions.

When my son was twelve, my wife and I wanted to prepare him for the teen years by identifying nine character qualities that contribute to successful adolescence. We created what we call the "Teenage Challenge." We gave him a notebook listing those nine character qualities. We defined each quality in a way that he could understand, included a verse related to each quality for him to memorize, and gave him an activity or assignment to allow him to practice each one. The goal wasn't to develop those qualities in the weeks prior to his birthday, but to identify them for him so he could spend the next several years working on them.

Remember, you're not just dealing with behavioral changes; you're building character. Words such as "stop complaining" focus on behavior. "Gratefulness," on the other hand, is a character quality. A child who is having a hard time staying in bed after saying good night may need to work on self-discipline. Each solution simply identifies and defines the positive quality that will cause the negative behavior(s) to diminish.

Children often like the character-development plan because it gives them a positive way to work on problems they realize they have. Some children may resist the process, but after they see growth, they are often encouraged.

As you put the pressure on, your children develop perseverance that produces the character that results in hope. This process is not easy most of the time, but it works. We've watched hundreds of parents apply pressure in the right way to their children and see lasting results. Not only are the parents less frustrated, but the kids feel better about themselves, too. It's worth the work.

Definitions of Positive Character Qualities

Patience: waiting with a happy heart

Patience: giving others a little more time than I feel comfortable with

Humility: giving God and others credit for their work in my life

Humility: listening to others and rejoicing in their stories instead of having to  tell my own

Flexibility: changing my plans to help others

Courage: taking a stand for what I know is right

Courage: doing something difficult even though it makes me feel uncomfortable

Resourcefulness: looking for ways to solve my own problems instead of bringing them to others

Resourcefulness: helping others to find solutions when they're stuck

Click here for Step 4: Treatment – Provide Instructions for Working on the Solution

Excerpt from Eight Tools for Effective Parenting by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN. Used with permission.

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