Many times people think its too early to start implementing things like this, but children are WAY smarter than we often give them credit for. I already see Zane stopping before he does stuff some times, processing: "Last time I tried "this" I got a consequence...Should I try it again". Its amazing to watch, he's 9 months old!?! Of course there are other times where he definitely doesn't stop & think or empathize with others, but baby steps. But I have definitely begun to see the fruit of my labor start shining through more & more with Him.
How do you start teaching these things? I think its all about how we choose to communicate to our kids before & after making different decision and I also believe modeling behaviors is HUGE. A few examples, every time before we are about to leave somewhere like a restaurant we have just eaten at or someones house, we have always told & shown our children that we need to leave places even better than the way we found it. This is good character, this is treating other people & their property how we would want to be treated. By instilling this kind of mentality while they are young, I hope that when they are by themselves & about to leave somewhere they will stop & think about how & why they want to leave a place even better than they found it-Whether its just straightening chairs, throwing some trash all the way away or whatever. Again, not so much for the other person directly, but because they want to be a person of character & excellence.
As far as their extra curricular activities go, before each lesson/practice/game we challenge the kids to set goals for themselves on how they can personally improve each time & to think of steps on how they are going to get there. Yes, does it feel good when the teacher says "Great job!"? Absolutely, but if that is their only motivation for trying hard, they aren't going to go very far in life because people aren't always going to be right there to help drive you & push you forward. YOU have to want things. The people in life that are battery-powered (you power you up) are just going to go much further than the ones who are only solar powered (always depending on someone else or socialization to feel encouraged or empowered). My husband & I are constantly asking our children, "Are you proud of yourself?". Its just a huge key in building their self confidence & again encouraging THEM to be the reason they want to try harder & be ALL they can be!!! Many times in their lives people will try making comparisons of them against others, they may even be tempted to make these comparisons themselves, but by encouraging them to build/strengthen that inner fortitude & drive it will hopefully decrease the weight of those times.
Ultimately, YES our children are going to care somewhat how we feel about who they are & the choices that they make on a level. Yes, that is a good thing, but "performing" should not be their only source of motivation. We need to raise children who also take pride & care in who they are & what they believe in-Kids of character who truly show concern for others. Children who are "thinkers" instead of just acting aimlessly without a care of what the possible consequences could be. Children who are battery powered instead of people who are solely motivated by outside sources.
Have a great night!