As part of a revival of interest in character education, English schools are required to teach the new ‘three Rs’: resilience; respect for ‘fundamental British values’; and responsibility for one’s own well-being. School inspectors evaluate children’s resilience, whilst the Department for Education has offered financial incentives to schools that ‘instil’ mental toughness and ‘grit’. However, this approach may prove counterproductive because it relies on teaching about desirable character traits and neglects the interpersonal relations within which ‘character’ develops. This paper argues for an alternative ‘fourth R’ of character education, based on Honneth’s theory of recognition. As an empathetic connection to others arising from their intrinsic worth, recognition precedes cognition and a detached, neutral stance. Recognition of others as a prerequisite for moral action provides a foundation for an approach to character education that takes account of intersubjective relationships in schools and the wider social context within which character is shaped.