Search the site

Building Character & Discipline in Teens

Character Building Activities & Self-Discipline Exercises

Teaching kids and teens about the importance of character serves as a vital element on their path to future success. Developing self-discipline and strong character can help young adults not only excel in the classroom, but in other aspects of their daily lives as well. Listed below is a collection of helpful activities and scenarios that students and teens can take part in as a way to promote character development.

Each of these character building games helps teens and kids alike discover the importance of character as a value for becoming a strong leader. These character building resources are also part of the 52 Leadership Ideas PDF that is available for download in our online store.

We also invite you to learn more about our Habitudes for Character Education curriculum by clicking here.

Activity #1: It's Good For You

Sit down and discuss the things you and your young person really don’t like doing. It may be a habit like sweeping the garage or some other chore around the house. It may be listening to or interacting with someone who seems un-loveable. It may be physical exercise or the discipline of waiting. It could even be eating a vegetable you don’t like.

Choose two of these “undesirables” and make them disciplines. Deliberately do what you don’t like doing. Practice them daily for one week. Put them down on the calendar and hold each other accountable to do them. (If you do them for two weeks, chances are they will become a good habit!)

Afterward, discuss the results. Did you feel a sense of accomplishment? Did you waver in your commitment? Talk about how daily disciplines pave the way for conquering laziness and indifference. How have you gained a personal victory by practicing these disciplines?

Activity #2: Watching the News

Take some time each night for a week and watch the evening news on television. Look for news stories on people who either exhibited strong character (integrity and ethics) or failed to do so. (Trust me—these reports will not be hard to find.) Talk about each story and summarize what you think they had decided that made them act the way the person did. What values had they determined to live by: self-centered; self-promoting and self-protecting or civic-minded, others-centered and self-sacrificing.

Next, I recommend both you and your student make a list of four to six words that you intend to live by; words you believe describe the man or woman you hope to become by the end of your life. Share your list of these “core values” with each other and tell why you chose the words you did.

Activity #4: Walk Through a Graveyard

At sunrise or sunset one day, drive out to a local graveyard. If you can, find an old one, where the gravestones have descriptions on them of the people who are buried there. Walk through the property, reading the epitaphs of each one you pass.

Afterward, sit down and discuss what you saw. Think about the lives of those who are described on those gravestones. Then, talk about the future. What kind of person does your young person want to be, as an adult? What do they want to accomplish before they die? What will be their values? Their purpose? Their methods? What are their motives?

Take a few minutes and journal these thoughts on paper. Consider that we have a mission to live for and it is our goal to discover and work towards that mission.

Activity #5: Promises, Promises

Sit down and try to remember some promises you and your young person have made in the past. Make a list of them, and be sure and include some you failed to keep.

Next, select one of those unkept promises (to yourself or to someone else), and determine to keep that promise for one whole week. Fix your eyes on it as a clear goal. Write it down, and help each other think of steps you can take to keep the promise. Hold each other accountable. Write notes to each other; remind each other daily.

At the end of the week, talk it over. What does keeping a promise do to your sense of integrity? How does it positively affect your character? Does it strengthen your discipline? Remember that it is better that you should not make a promise than that you should make an promise and not fulfill it.

Activity #3: Leadership Interview

Select a community leader who exhibits integrity and discipline. Set up an interview with them and ask them how they built that discipline in their life. Ask them how they determined to live with integrity, and how they stick to it, when it is difficult. Ask them how they failed along the way, and how they eventually gained victory over their flesh. Write down their answers and review them on the way home.

Finally, think about how you can follow those who led you, and how you can learn from their triumphs and failures.