Mother kisses her happy toddler as they both lie down in the play room

Survey Says: “Developing Good Character in Children Starts Early”

Earlier this fall, Primrose Schools conducted a national survey with Ipsos which profiled hundreds of parents whose children have attended, currently attend or will attend an early education program between the ages of 3-5. The survey assessed parents’ beliefs about early character development by asking questions about how much parents value important character skills, like teamwork and generosity, and when they think children should start learning these traits.

Start Your Child's Story the Right Way

Our research revealed some interesting insights, including:

  • 92 percent of parents who responded believe nurturing positive character traits in children is more important today because of our increasingly social media-focused world.
  • Nearly 50 percent of parents surveyed said they are unaware of when they can and should start helping their children develop positive character traits.
  • More than half of parents who responded feel their child did not or will not acquire honesty, generosity and compassion (54, 54 and 62 percent, respectively) during their early education experience.

What we learned from this research is that parents undoubtedly believe character traits like compassion, generosity and kindness are important for their children to develop; however, they may not have the information and support they need to help their children cultivate these traits and other social-emotional skills to their full potential.

Misconception: Preschool is too young for children to start learning social-emotional skills.

Reality: Social-emotional skills and good character can and should be nurtured from birth.

Of parents surveyed, 48 percent think preschool is too young for children to start learning social-emotional skills, such as generosity, getting along with others and compassion, which contribute to the development of good character. However, the moral development of children begins in their first year of life, and brain development research shows the first five years are a critical period in which to build the foundation for children’s social-emotional well-being.

Emotional intelligence is influenced early on by children’s interactions with parents and caregivers. Children as young as 6 months old can begin demonstrating outward signs of budding empathy skills. It’s important for children’s loved ones to be aware of the critical role they play in nurturing the character traits and skills needed for later success. 

Misconception: Instilling good character in children is solely parents’ responsibility.

Reality: Early education and child care providers should support parents in intentionally nurturing good character.


At Primrose, we’ve always believed character development is fundamentally important, which is why it has been an integral part of our Balanced Learning® approach for more than 30 years. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for all early education and care providers. This is reflected in the survey responses: More than half of parents surveyed feel their child did not or will not acquire honesty, generosity and compassion (54, 54 and 62 percent, respectively) during their early education experience.

We know children are capable of developing foundational social-emotional skills and character traits at an early age. In Primrose classrooms, we see how big their little hearts can be on a daily basis. With this in mind – and knowing the extent to which children’s early social-emotional development can shape their ability to cope, relate to others and show compassion later in life – it is imperative that early education and child care providers support parents in nurturing their children’s social-emotional development in a purposeful way.

To learn more about character development at Primrose Schools and how parents can intentionally support children’s social-emotional development, please check out our tips and resources. 

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