Character Trades

Family Fun That Builds Character!

Character Trades helps teach kids
positive character traits 
with family games and activities!


1. It’s About Relationship

The goal of character isn’t just virtue, it’s healthy relationships. You’re not out to build perfect humans. You’re teaching flawed humans how to socialize, get along, support one another, and be happy together.

2. What Gets Rewarded Gets Repeated

Bad behavior should be confronted. But an even better way to bring about positive character is to notice when your child is doing something right – and praise him/her for it. Write a note, make a comment, give a hug or a special treat.

3. Embrace Conflict

Some shy away from conflict. Others run headlong into the fray with explosive emotions. But conflict can be healthy. If resolved well, there is a great reward called “intimacy”, the restoration of heart-to-heart relationship. Pursue conflict resolution.

4. The Art of a Good Apology

“Character Trades” discussions may highlight ways someone in your family has failed in living out good character recently. If necessary, take a moment to apologize sincerely. At our house, we say, “If you mess up, ‘fess up.” A good apology says, “I’m sorry for (behavior I did) which caused (outcome, how others felt). Will you forgive me?” The other person responds, “Yes, I forgive you.” And a good 20-second hug tends to help.

5. Model It

Parents have about 18 years of influence on a child. Less than that, when you consider that most character is built in the toddler and elementary years. In the end, two main things impact character: 1) what you let the child do, and 2) what you let yourself do. Of the two, the second one generally wins – your kids tend to take on the behavior you model for them. Live well.


6. Screen-Free Day

Set aside one day each week with no screen time. Turn off the TV. Step away from the computer. Put down the smart phone and tablet. You may be surprised at how your family starts to connect when you unplug.


7. Family Game Night

Take an hour or two of your screen-free day and make it a family game night. If time is short, play a couple quick rounds of Character Trades and spend some time talking about a character trait. 

Have more time? Play your favorite version of Character Trades. Then let a family member pick another game from your game closet to play. 


8. Talk About It

The most important part of Character Trades is the opportunity to talk. Don't skip over it!

See Discussion Ideas.


9. Stick With It

We recommend weekly interaction with Character Trades. Focusing on one character trait per week, you'll need 36 weeks to cover them all. 

With busy schedules, you'll end up missing a week or two. Don't quit. Pick up where you started and get back into the routine.


10. Keep Them Close

We recommend keeping your deck of Character Trades on your kitchen counter, on the dining room table, or somewhere close by. Having them in plain sight makes it more likely that you'll use them. Pick them up when the kids are bored and play a quick game.


11. Casual Conversation

You don't have to hit your kids over the head with character development. Try a casual comment like: "Thanks for responding so quickly when I asked you to get your shoes on. That shows Punctuality. And it makes me feel loved when you respond like that. Thanks." A little praise does wonders.

Character Trades gives your family specific vocabulary for moments like these.


12. Go One-On-One

One Saturday morning each month, take one of your kids out to breakfast one-on-one. Take along Character Trades or another card game to play while you wait for your food to arrive. As you eat, talk to your child about what's going on with them at school. Let them talk about what's important to them. Bring up some positive ways you see them growing. Have some honest conversations about life.

Not every breakfast conversation will be deep. But the regular habit of one-on-one time -- free from rush and distraction -- sets the stage for those times when meaningful conversation needs to happen. And you'll be glad for the memories you made.