What is good character?

Being a person with good character means you act with honesty, respect, responsibility, caring, and other good traits.

Teachers and parents talk about having good character, building character, and good character traits — but what does it all mean? Well, a person’s character is shown by how they act, think, and feel in life. Character isn't one thing; it's the sum of how someone usually interacts with others and how they treat themselves.

(Also see the 4 core values for good character and common decency written for adults.)

A person with good character acts with commonly accepted good traits that help people to be healthy and to live well together.

Acting with good traits, good values, or good character includes being: Honest, Respectful and Fair, Responsible, Caring and Empathetic, able to Persevere

Someone with good character acts in line with good traits, which may also be called good values or good morals. We call them good values or morals because they are ways of acting that are good for our wellbeing—they help us to be healthy and they help people to get along well in life. (See What is Morality and where it comes from.) Sometimes we aren't sure how we should act so these good morals or values help us choose to do the right thing—like making choices that are honest, respectful, responsible, and caring—so that our actions are more helpful and less harmful. Someone with good character avoids behaviors society considers to be wrong, like lying, cheating, stealing, hurting other people on purpose, being careless about other people's wellbeing, and being disrespectful or unkind. A person with good character makes choices that are in line with ways of acting that help them to be healthy, and helps them have a positive impact on other people.

For more about good character, scroll down:

  • Examples of Good Character
  • Building Good Character
  • Good Character in Everyday Life

Good character for kids

Books and teaching resources for building good character for kids

Good character for teens

Book and teaching resources on building good character for high school teens

Good character for adults

Book on building good character and a moral compass for aults

Examples of good character

How can you tell if someone has good character? Character is the pattern of thoughts, acts, and feelings someone shows over time. Someone with good character believes they should make good choices and shows over time that they almost always make choices that are honest, respectful, fair, caring, and responsible. Making a mistake doesn’t mean you don’t have good character. Everyone makes mistakes and learns from them. But, when someone of good character makes a mistake, they take responsibility for it. They also show perseverance, which means they will make good choices and they’ll do the right thing, even when it’s hard.

Building good character

Good character is often something a person builds over time. When you hear about "building good character" or a "character building moment", it means that you are facing a challenge and you need to look to your good values, make a good choice, and persevere (work through it even though it's hard). A moment when you have a difficulty to overcome can be a character building moment because it helps you prove to yourself that you can make a good choice that is in line with your values. All the character building moments in your life help you grow into a person with good character.

Good Character teaching Resources

Good Character Examples from Real Life

What would someone with good character do?

You break your mom’s vase.-- Someone with good character will tell the truth (even if they’re going to get in trouble) and shows caring by apologizing and trying to make the situation better.

What would someone with good character do?

A new kid comes to school and dresses differently.-- A person with good character will not tease or be unkind. A person with good character will show caring and respect even when someone is different.

What would someone with good character do?

You have a test tomorrow. You know it’s important to study and do your best in school. You really would rather watch a new TV show you’ve been waiting for, but if you watch it, you won’t have time to study. A person with good character acts responsibly and finishes their work.

Good Character teaching Resources

Colleen Doyle Bryant

Colleen Doyle Bryant is the author of five books and more than 50 learning resources about making good choices for the right reasons. Her Talking with Trees series for elementary students and Truth Be Told Quotes series for teens are used in curricula around the world. Rooted in Decency, Colleen’s most recent release, written for an adult audience, explores how the decline in common decency is affecting wellbeing, and how we can build more trust and cooperation. Learn more at ColleenDoyleBryant.com