Friday, June 29, 2012

Parenting Tips: Character Journal

By Deborah Pace Rowley

I love the movie Little Men based on the book by Louisa May Alcott. My favorite character is Jo. She is the tomboy character from Little Women who is now all grown up and married to Professor Bhaer…not Laurie. (I know, I was devastated too! But that is a discussion for another time.) She and her husband run the Plumfield School for Poor Boys. She keeps a character journal for each of these young men and writes in it weekly. The journal is called a character journal because she writes about the character traits that she is seeing them develop. She records the times that they show great character and the positive traits that she sees in them. She also records the times that they acted without character and her disappointment in their behavior. I thought this idea was so powerful that I adopted it for our own family. I cannot say that I have written weekly but I do try to add an entry every so often for each child. I try to focus my short entries on the character traits that I am seeing develop in them.

I know lots of mothers write yearly letters to their children or keep a diary to record their children’s progress. They plan to give this special record to their child on their wedding day or at graduation or on some other momentous occasion. The thing that was different about Jo’s character journals was that she gave them to the boys each week to read. She wanted the journal to be a motivation to grow and improve for the future and not just a record of the past.

When I write in one child’s journal, I place it on his or her bed to read before I collect it again. I never say anything about the journal and most of the time my children don’t comment on what I have written but I have seen the quiet impact certain entries have had on their behavior. My oldest daughter has now left for college and I sent her completed journal with her to Virginia. She has told me several times that the words that I had written throughout her life strengthened her and helped her to believe in herself when she was feeling discouraged and overwhelmed and a little small. What more could I want for my Little Women and Little Man. 
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