Book Review and Contest: Character is the Key

Yep, you read right – contest! Read on, the contest part is at the end.

We all, as parents or perhaps future parents, want our kids to grow up with good character. Maybe this is just me assuming that everyone is like me, but I can’t imagine someone saying, “Oh man, I really want my child to grow up to be dishonest, and if they could throw in irresponsible to boot, score!” So we do what we can to raise our kids with what we consider to be ‘good character’.Is raising your child watching shows like “Thomas the Tank Engine,” and “Franklin the Turtle,” with clear and obvious moral statements enough? How about the schools – aren’t they teaching kids perseverance and responsibility through assigning homework and detentions if they’re late? Or can we just talk about integrity and courage with our kids?


If you read here much you know that I’m trying to raise my son with a sense of adventure – which includes such characteristics as courage, initiative, perseverance, and optimism. So when Mom Central approached me about reviewing the book Character is the Key, by psychotherapist Sara Dimerman, I jumped at the chance.

In this book Sara focuses on the concept that teaching children to have good character must be done with intent and purpose. Even more so, she directs the reader’s attention to the fact that kids learn what their parents demonstrate far more readily than they learn what their parents, or teachers, say. Sure, you can read inspirational stories to your kids, or tell them to be honest, but it won’t be nearly as effective as if you yourself model appropriate behaviour and good character. She also identifies ten character elements to focus on, giving real-life examples of what each means. Included in the book is her Family Plan, a series of family meetings that guide your family through identifying and coming to a consensus about what is important, what everyone is doing right, and what could improve.

The book does present options for not only ‘intact’ families, but also co-parenting situations. However, in my case as a ‘solo’ parent the Family Plan is something for me to set aside until Cameron is older. Yes, it is encouraged that very young kids, who aren’t old enough to really do the exercises detailed in the Plan, are included in the meeting. But when there’s just one person actively participating it doesn’t make for much of a meeting. A little one-sided.

The Big Thing that I got out of reading this book was a reminder of something that I – and probably just about everyone else too – already knew. Parents often give their kids some seriously mixed messages. In the first place, the characteristics that are often encouraged in small children are not ones that serve an adult well. However, a slight shift in perspective, expectations, and language can make a large difference. Second, parents often encourage their children to have good character, but then turn around and model exactly the opposite behaviour. How often does your child see you let a responsibility slide? Show disrespect towards someone at work? Although the Family Plan part of the book wasn’t useful right now, this reminder was. After all, the byline of the title is, “how to unlock the best in our children and ourselves.’ That’s the first step – to consciously and purposefully model good character for your kids, which has the end result of not just helping your kids to be their best, but also you too.

I would say that this book is a good resource for any parent raising a child, as well as educators. It’s emphasized frequently in the book that teaching children to have good character works best if school and parents work together. The concepts are universal, and the approach can be modified easily to fit different families. Even though the meeting part wasn’t the most useful section for me right now, solo parents of young children can still benefit from the rest. It’s a relatively easy read, in that it’s organized into three sections. The first section introduces the concepts and framework as well as the author, the second details the Family Plan with meeting-by-meeting worksheets – exercises that illustrate clearly to family members the meaning of the character traits and how they are important, and the third focuses on each character trait. Also included are current online resources for more information.

Now, are you interested? GREAT! Care to win a copy of the book? EVEN BETTER. Because I have good news for you. There is a brand new copy being held for one lucky reader here. How to enter? There are lots of ways, and you can get multiple entries to boost your odds.

Post a comment here telling me that you’d like to win. Ta-dah, there’s an entry. Share with everyone in that comment what you consider to be a good character trait, and I’ll give you a bonus. (be sure you enter your email address in the comment form. It won’t be shared … and then I can reach you!)

For additional bonus entries (one each, and you should post a comment to let me know what you’re doing just so I don’t miss it!): follow me on twitter; tweet about the contest; post on your blog and link back here about the contest; use any other social media (facebook, whatever) to tell people about the contest.

I’ll use to determine the winner, and the contest will close at 9 pm Pacific time on Thursday October 29th and I will announce the winner that night.  Good luck!

I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Character Is the Key: How to Unlock the Best in Our Children and Ourselves and received the book and a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate.


4 responses to “Book Review and Contest: Character is the Key

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  2. Melanie – I would love to win a copy of the book Character is the Key.

    I followed you on Twitter (both from @VaStateParks and @nheltman, and retweeted your tweet about the contest.

    I think a good character trait is showing gratitude to people who help you. Whether it’s a kind wave when someone lets you cut in front of them while driving or making sure you share the credit on the big project at work with everyone that helped, gratitude goes a long way to making us more civilized!

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