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United Way Blog

Character Is a Teachable Skill

Parenting is not for wimps.

Double that when it comes to parenting tweens and teens. Growth spurts, hormone shifts, increasingly complex schoolwork, changing friendships, crushes, sports, jobs, college worries, family dynamics – it’s a lot!

On top of that, we worry about social media, cyber bullying and the increasingly uncivilized “adult” conversations online.

All of us want to show our kids what character looks like. Here are four important life skills that we can model every day that will play a significant role in building a child’s character:

  1. Show empathy
  2. Have the ability to compromise and negotiate
  3. Take ownership of one’s own actions
  4. Express one’s feelings and wants with words rather than with impulsive behavioral reaction

Things like initiative, intellectual engagement and teamwork are on most parents’ short list, too. Many of us are leveraging dinner table conversations, team sports activities and active faith communities to support those skills.

But we also want our kids to learn about open-mindedness, resilience, self-control, healthy relationships and social awareness. Those may not impact SAT scores, but they’re foundational to a child’s success in school, work and life. And they make our world a better place.

The good news: “soft skills” – like communicating effectively, resolving conflicts, understanding and managing emotions and stepping in for a friend – are teachable skills.

There are some great tools designed to give kids the foundation for good character. One to check out is Character PlaybookTM – a digital social-emotional learning program that teaches middle schoolers real-world skills about healthy relationships, conflict resolution and managing emotions. (Check out these conflict resolution skills inspired by Character Playbook.)

The National Football League Foundation and United Way have made the program available to all schools in America, for free. So far, nearly 500,000 students in 5,000 schools have used Character Playbook as a tool for personal development. The course is raising students’ expectations about how they should be treated and how they should treat others in a relationship. Read more about the positive impact it’s having on kids here.

A majority of students leave the course more prepared to play a positive role in their communities, whether by stepping in to help someone who is being treated with disrespect or by taking an active role in conflict resolution.

It’s a fact that schools that teach character education report higher academic performance, improved attendance, reduced violence, fewer disciplinary issues, reduction in substance abuse, and less vandalism.

To explore ways to bring Character Playbook to your child’s school, free of charge, visit us at

Inspired by what you read? Change starts with you. Take action today to make a difference in your community.