A few years ago my sister-in-law and I had a great conversation about a tradition they planned to start with their kids as they entered into their school years. She and her husband would pick one character trait (i.e. citizenship, trustworthiness, kindness, integrity, etc…) to focus on throughout the year to bring attention to something they considered to be of great importance. It was a concept that resonated with me and ever since then I’ve been trying to think of ways we could incorporate a similar concept into our home.
Every time I’ve tried to narrow the choices down to one trait I’ve been overwhelmed and unable to choose. Then earlier this summer I was reading “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain and it hit me. The trait I’d most like to focus on with my children this year is CHARACTER. In the book the author explains how we, as a society, have shifted from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality as outlined by cultural historian Warren Susman. He explained that as the country transformed from an agricultural nation to an urbanized powerhouse at the turn of the twentieth century the way Americans behaved was drastically altered.
The Culture of Character, perhaps best remembered by my grandparent’s generation, was a time when the ideal self was disciplined & honorable. Good manners, integrity, citizenship, duty, golden deeds, reputation, and good moral standing were highly desirable traits. The author said that during this time “What counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved in private.”
This is in stark contrast of what so many people of our generation are drawn to as an ideal self. The new Culture of Personality is a time when people are hyper-aware of how others perceive them, they are captivated by people who are bold & entertaining, and they desire “performance” roles. Traits associated with this culture are dominant, forceful, stunning, magnetic & glowing. In his findings Susman wrote, “Every American was to become a performing self.” It seems I could go on for days with examples of how this “Culture of Personality” is playing out in today’s society, but I think the recent performance of a certain someone at the VMA’s is evidence enough. I’m sure every single one of us has plenty of examples of people in our lives who go to extraordinary lengths to get noticed, validated, and/or publicly recognized. It points to the fact that we’ve become far more self-serving as a society and according to Susman, it might explain the plethora of anxiety issues facing so many Americans as of late.
Having read this information I was immediately compelled to focus our attention on honoring CHARACTER in our children. Throughout the school year (and beyond) we’ll be talking about what good character means and looks like. We will keep our eyes open for opportunities to encourage & praise the kids when they display good character along with pointing out others who are showing acts of character. We’ll also be sure to share a lot of stories about our grandparent’s generation where people were expected to work hard, have integrity, show good manners, be good citizens, and live with honor. These are all traits we hope to instill in our kids so focusing on CHARACTER seemed like a good focal point as we head into a new school year. Hopefully, this is something we can continue with each and every year.
To serve as a little reminder for our kids I printed this photo of my grandfather (a.k.a. Popo) working in his garden along with a quote that seemed fitting for our focus this year…CHARACTER.
I also created the same quote on a chalkboard background you can download HERE if you want to print a version for yourself!
Since we are on the subject of good character…friends of ours from the neighborhood have been supplying us with beautiful zucchini from their garden. We love them for this as it has allowed me to experiment with lots of new recipes. I found one I will definitely be adding to my recipe rotation so I thought I’d share it with you. My kids think this tastes just like their Grandma’s chocolate pudding cake!
Chocolate Zucchini Cake (adapted from Comfy Belly)
- 2 cups grated or finely shredded zucchini (about 1 zucchini)
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup Swerve (or other sweetener)
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup coconut flour
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup chocolate chips
- Preheat your oven to 350°F
- Grease 8×8 pan or loaf pan.
- In a food processor or mixer, blend the zucchini, eggs, oil, sweetener, and vanilla. (I used a processor and it worked very well!)
- Blend the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into the wet batter and let the batter sit for a few minutes.
- Mix in the chocolate chips and pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes (if cooking a loaf or cake) only 13-18 minutes if making mini muffins, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool and serve. Store covered at room temperature for several days or in the refrigerator for a few weeks.
The first time I made this recipe I made it in a loaf pan which worked well. With school starting early next week I thought I’d make this batch in mini cake pans so they could easily fit in the kid’s lunch boxes. You could use mini muffin tins or a simple square cake pan as well. The cake pan I used can be found HERE. What I like about it is that you can invert the mini cakes and fill them with berries, ice cream, or another topping of choice OR simply turn right side up for a traditional mini muffin.
Keep them inverted and fill them with berries, ice cream, or another topping of choice!
Or flip them over for a more traditional mini muffin!