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STAR Testing for Character

    Maybe it�s just me, but I came across a question from a concerned parent and I am still reeling. She was inquiring about her child, who in a social situation had a toy taken away by another child. Her child simply moved on to another toy. The child didn�t become upset, nor did the child react with anger or whining. The child displayed his natural instinct for harmony. The sad thing was this parent wanted to know what she could do to help make her child respond with more aggression should anyone ever take her child�s toy away in the future. Not exactly the typical response from most parents!

    At some point, kids need to learn to stand up for themselves and to be assertive. However, society is now pushing kids in the direction of aggression, not assertiveness. They want their kids to win at almost any cost. We are in the middle of a national crisis on character and its time we stop and think about the standards we are truly setting up for our kids. Here are some startling facts to consider.

    • Nearly two out of three parents surveyed by a TIME/CNN poll said their kids measure self-worth more by possessions than their parents did at the same age.
    • According to U.S. News & World Report since 1969, high school test cheating increased from 34% to 68%. 84% of college students believe they need to cheat to get ahead in the world.
    • 85 percent of respondents in a recent AOL Time Warner poll said U.S. kids are spoiled.

    All kids misbehave and display less than desirable attitudes from time to time. However, when there is a consistent pattern of destructive behavior, we have to look at making a change. Many parents are saying that its ok if their kid is aggressive, tough and even selfish. It�s a tough world and kids need these skills today to survive, right? Look at any adult who is competing for a job, trying to close a deal, or even have the nicest house. The trick is to start looking at what standards we are setting and why. The idea of success ala Donald Trump doesn�t have to negate positive character, but for some reason there seems to be a battle between the idea of succeeding through aggression and determination versus succeeding through compassion, empathy, self-control and kindness.

    So why is this so important? According to Dr.Michele Borba, author of Don�t Give Me That Attitude, bad attitudes lead to a lifetime of unhappiness and social isolation: Kids who are spoiled, self-centered, arrogant, and disrespectful may never form lasting attachments or find personal fulfillment. My oldest daughter just completed her first STAR testing ordeal�something all parents are familiar with by second grade. However, it makes me wonder why there are no standards for positive character? There are some interesting and positive rewards for character making into the schools and the community, but I would personally love to see a consistent ongoing educational program for the schools and in the homes of every child. Character is the number one predicator of future success in our child�s personal and professional futures.

    So while we are waiting for the schools to catch up, start a character growth stick in your home. Start setting up a standard for kindness, self-control, empathy, respect, good manners, and other crucial virtues. Set up your own annual STAR test for character. Know that if you set your kids up for success by teaching them these skills and virtues, they will achieve their goals on the test and in life where it really counts!

    � Anne Leedom

    Anne Leedom is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of parentingbookmark.com. She has been quoted in national print including Parents, Redbook and Nick Jr. Magazines and has been a guest on National Public Radio Affiliate WHWC on the show "Mental Health Today with Dr. Minette Ponick." Anne writes a regular column in Northern California and can be reached at anne@parentingbookmark.com.