Building Character: Five Ways to Give a Child the World

by Angela Noel

October 6, 2016

“All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”- Abraham Lincoln

Becoming a mother isn’t, in my opinion, a biological or a legal event. It’s a choice made with every action. Mothers build us, piece by piece. The tools they use to build our character differ; no two mothering (or parenting/mentoring) methods are the same. Every mother would express what she wants for her children differently. But underlying all these differences remains a simple fact: Our mothers want the best for us. 

Often our biggest fans and sometimes our worst critics, mothers tell us truth even when we don’t want to hear it. They are the masters of the teachable moment. For example, my mother warned me that riding a Big Wheel in my favorite dress wouldn’t turn out well. When I shredded it under my plastic tires, just as she’d predicted, she didn’t scold me. Instead, she talked to me about cause and effect, how our actions have consequences and why. Many other such moments populated my childhood. Here are five gifts my mother gave me:

1. She encouraged my curiosity

As a second grader, the same age my son is now, I put two Breyer horses, one black and one white out on the patio. I wanted to see if what they had said in school was true . . . does white absorb light and does black reflect it? Was the black horse warmer or cooler to the touch than the white one? When she asked me what I had been doing I told her it was an experiment. She smiled at me, asked me what I learned and encouraged me to keep going.

2. She supported my compassion

After much begging, we went to the local humane society to pick out our first dog. I had been entrusted with the job of picking the puppy out. But instead of a puppy, I fell in love with a recent arrival, an abused collie-mix. I couldn’t stand that she had been hurt and she looked so sad. “Are you sure?” my mother asked me. I said I was.

April and I
April and I in our Tustin, California backyard.
3. She reinforced my courage 

While walking our dog in the park near our house, I saw a man in a ski mask running by me, his private parts shoved out of his blue rayon Dolphin shorts. My nine-year-old self ran home to tell my mother what I’d seen. She believed me, calling the police. I reported what I could remember. I’m sure she was scared, and I was too. I’m sure she wanted to keep me indoors forever after that, but she didn’t.

4. She nurtured my creativity

At age ten I wrote a poem about a boy who turned into a butterfly.  My mother read it slowly, absorbing my words. She nodded her head, lips smiling, eyes shining. “Keep writing,” she said. “I love it.”

Building character
My little sister Dawn and I rehearsing a play we co-wrote.
5. She put relationships before ego

Right before I graduated high school, when I knew everything about everything, we fought. For two weeks or more I refused to speak to her. But she still came to my graduation ceremony, still smiled for the camera. Now, as a parent, I know this act of love required my mom to swallow righteous anger. She showed me then that ego should never guide decision making

Give a Child the World

Each of these episodes and many more added depth to my character. My mother encouraged curiosity, compassion, courage, storytelling, and regulation of ego. She corrected my devious tendencies and my unwarranted over-confidence. She built the core of who I am with her actions and her words. My mom gave the best of herself to foster the best in me.

Be awesome in real life.

What ways did your mother shape you? What do you try and do for your child?

I’d love to hear from you!





Author: Angela Noel

On a quest to become a better human, I write about parenting, leadership, and personal development. I tell my stories so you can find your own.

11 thoughts on “Building Character: Five Ways to Give a Child the World”

    1. Lovely reflection! In which case I should also thank your mom for helping you become an amazing human being and friend! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed seeing your continued growth and a witness to how you experience life! Love to both of you.

  1. I believe I have the same kind of nurturing parents that you had, and my only hope is that I can do the same for my kids!

  2. Wow – the line ‘mothers build us piece by piece’ stuck out for me. That is it! Fabulous post!

  3. This is sooooo sweet! She sounds amazing. What a great post and thank you for sharing! I agree with everything you said.

    1. Thank you! She is amazing. Though she’d likely disagree. I’ll make sure she reads your comment, so she knows it’s not just me that thinks so!

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