Teaching Character is Your Job


mom and dad arms around daughter

We finally have fall weather in NJ, and I am enjoying, well, tolerating, being on the wet soccer field in 40-degree temperatures. I am watching a 4th grade soccer game that my 8th grader is refereeing.

I always go to their games – I love them. Being here though is stupid. I have no interest in watching my son ref while my feet freeze and the rest of the family is home eating ice cream and playing ping-pong.

Why am I here? Because I have learned that I need to be here to assure that neither parents nor coaches abuse my child for his (inevitable) refereeing mistakes.

Yes, this is 4th grade soccer. Recreational soccer, not that that matters. And parental behavior is bad enough that I need to leave my warm house to babysit my 8th grader.

According to Family.com, this is not an isolated incident:

  • 55 percent of parents say they have witnessed other parents engaging in verbal abuse at youth sporting events.
  • 21 percent say they’ve witnessed a physical altercation between other parents at youth sporting events.

I am not sure which stat stuns me more.

What is the cause of this? Character. I hate to speak in absolutes, but a person of ‘good’ character, by just about any standard, would not yell at an 8th grader about a 4th grade recreational soccer game.

What we have here is a failure of character.

If this was a failure of math or science, we’d have at least a minor ruckus. There would be (and are) calls for standards for math and science.

Failures of character – systemic ones – don’t seem to be eliciting the same response.

Why is this?

I think that first and foremost, people don’t recognize that this is a character issue. I don’t think people know that character can be taught. And I don’t think most people know how to teach it.

It’s not only the ‘bad’ parent that concerns me on nights like this. I can accept that there are always going to be a few bad characters. But what baffles me is that the good characters don’t shout down the one bad one. I could stay home if I knew that the majority would assure that no adult would terrorize a 13-year old.

Logic says I’d be fine. But not experience.

Should we demand that schools start teaching character education? This has been on the agenda for years. Sure, demand away. But expect nothing.

Teaching character is your job.

A failure of character education has given me cold feet. Given that the schools are not going to solve this, we each have a responsibility to step up and do more from our homes. Now.

Can you help? Can you help to improve character education in your home? And if you are willing, how can I help? What types of resources would make it easier for you?


About the author -

Eric Cohen

Eric Cohen founded Funderstanding in 1994, a product of his passion for active and inspired learning. His day job is at a2xconsulting, where he helps small companies grow into big companies. He lives in NJ with his wife, 2 kids, dog - and his ever growing collection of fine whisky, good movies, and baseball books.


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