Building Good Character in Children: NWSMA’s “Character Contract”

If you’ve been at the dojo recently, you may have noticed that a new activity has taken the place of the Summer Bingo Board.

building character in children

NWSMA’s “Character Contract” aims at building character in children.

Many parents hope that martial arts programs will help with building good character in children. Inherently, they can & do.

But I got to thinking. (Nothing new here).

What if there was a way to encourage our students to think critically about their actions, both IN and OUTside of the dojo? Especially outside, where we instructors often don’t know how they act.

And so, the “Character Contract” was born. Read on to find out specifics!

The Character Contract is a 14-week program. Each week, we’re going to add an item to the wall–and to our brains. We’ll be holding discussions to make sure everyone knows what it all means. Periodically, I’ll be asking students to self-evaluate & see if they’re improving.

I’ve asked students who are either blue belt & higher or ages 13-20 to actually sign their names, and we’ll post that page on the wall as well. I told them the signature just means that they’ll promise to try–after all, we are human and we make mistakes.

(My main goal here is for this to help remind them to hold themselves accountable).

I’m also going to blog at the end of the week, and share some of the examples the students come up with.

This is a fluid activity with a generic goal of self-improvement, so parents, grandparents, guardians, etc are welcome to assist, ask questions, and talk to your student about the importance of good character.

So, for this week, we have:

building character in children

Item #1 in the Character Contract.

We’ve talked this week about examples of showing self-control. They came up with some great ones:

  • Instead of getting angry at someone, we could walk away, take a deep breath, ask the person nicely to stop, or ignore them.
  • We could spend our allowance wisely.
  • We could not take a second piece of cake (even though we might really want it).
  • We won’t use our martial arts outside of class on our siblings, parents, or pets.
  • We could come to class, even if we’re tired and don’t feel like it.

If you talk to your students this week about self-control, it might be useful to remind them about choices.

In every situation, your child has a choice to make. They can choose anger or other negative emotions, or they can choose to calm themselves down and not get upset.

The ability to choose is important. Children who can choose to delay gratification tend to have better grades, test scores, better social skills, go to college, get better jobs, make more money, and get into less trouble. (See “The Marshmellow Test“).

So, that’s the lowdown on the Character Contract. We look forward to hearing about how your students are faring with the ideas we bring up!!

About Sensei/YDN Caitlin

Sensei Yudanjanim Caitlin is a 2nd degree black belt, senior instructor, administrative assistant, and student of Tae Kwon Do, Karate, and Arnis at Northwest School of Martial Arts.
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