What you can learn from character assessment
By Heather McMillan
Have you noticed how much kids love to talk about themselves? It must be a people thing. I’m sure I’m the same way!
You really have their attention when you ask, “What do YOU like?” or “What’s YOUR opinion?”
It makes them feel heard, and that what they have to say matters. It must be a little bit like being offered a seat at the grown-up table.
And in that atmosphere, they’ll be honest about most anything.
Using the Character Assessment tool
The Character Assessment from We Choose Virtues is a little tool that offers kids (and adults) an opportunity to rate themselves on twelve virtues, using a scale from one to ten.
It defines both ends of the spectrum clearly, so they can place themselves between the two.
It’s also a great way to set a target for growth. We offer a version for ages 3-10 and 11-18. Parents and teachers can use either one.
While we were developing the We Choose Virtues’ collection for teens and tweens (age 11-18), my husband, Elton, took the Character Assessment to a class of fifth-graders at the public school in our town. We are friends with their teacher.
Elton told the students “Mr. McGowan wants to know what you think." He suggested that they be as honest as they knew how to be.
And they were. In fact, they loved thinking pragmatically about their own behavior and what motivated them on the inside.
Then he asked, “Does anyone want to share? No pressure.” He wasn’t sure what to expect, but suddenly hands went up.
“I don’t have any self-control at all!” said one boy.
“I need to forgive my dad,” said another.
Every student in a class of 30 wanted to share. This opening meant we were able to follow up with virtue lessons that were very well received.
Starting the conversation about character
Whether you are teaching in a classroom, or to your kids at home, there are three ways the Character Assessment makes the conversation about character easier:
- Sometimes we need someone else to ask the pointed questions. You know, take some of the heat off us and defuse the dreaded defensiveness.
- Sometimes we need an official plan, one that is written down, so our kids will take it seriously. I remember when my kids were little, they thought something was so smart, just because I “didn’t make it up.” Haha!
- And, sometimes we need a conversation starter. With all we do as moms, it is nice to have some help explaining abstract concepts like diligence, attentiveness, and contentment. This little assessment is great for this.
So, what can you learn about your child from the Character Assessment? A lot! And you can learn even more by HOW they take it.
- It offers insight into how accurately your child sees themselves. No one is a “ten” (having no need for growth) and no one is a “one” (Having no virtue at all). If your child leans toward one extreme or the other, this is a great opportunity to provide guidance. Simply helping them remember examples of times they’ve used the virtue, or forgotten to use it, will help bring balance.
- It reveals how your child feels about each virtue, which ones are difficult, and which are easy. Encouraging each person share their strengths and weaknesses helps your kids develop empathy for each other. Sharing your own is a wonderful way to set an example of vulnerability for your family.
- After you have practiced each virtue for a while, and you assess again, you’ll get to learn how your child perceives their own growth. This is such a great teaching opportunity, as you reinforce the importance of progress over perfection.
So, there you have it. The value of the Character Assessment.
If only we could all be as effective as Adrienne from abiglittlefamily.com. She wrote:
“The Character Assessment was… hilarious. No two ways around it. Not that the assessment was so funny, but my kid’s assessment of themselves was downright interesting. Who would have thought that all this teaching would result in perfect children? To hear them tell it, they struggle no longer. Oh, we laughed. Maybe the Honest card should be the next one we pull out!”