In my professional life I have always said that children deliver to your expectations, if you have low expectations children deliver, it is the same if you set the bar high. I raised my own children with a strong set of values, and the performance character lessons I always taught them was “you don’t have to always be the best, you have to always be your best”.
As parents we often demand high standards and good results, this comes easily to many of us. The other aspects of moral and civic character take work. Albert Einstein said, “The most important human endeavour is striving for morality.”
My experience of children in my classroom is that they often have no awareness of the needs of others and the community of students around them. From the beginning of the year I spend much time teaching children how to constructively engage with each other, to be respectful, honest, patient, tolerant, kind and compassionate. While these are mostly moral virtues, the lessons are often focused on how these behaviours affect our classroom community. “We are defined by our core ethical values—our integrity, our sense of justice and compassion, and the degree to which we respect the dignity and worth of every member of the human family, especially the most vulnerable among us” (Character Education Partnership, 2008). My class is an inclusive classroom and teaching tolerance and acceptance of each other and their needs takes time.
As parents, we need to model the tolerance and compassion we want to develop in our children. While schools give teachers the built-in community to teach these lessons, the modeling of these moral values must come from the home. Civic and community responsibility is a way for us to teach our children empathy for others. No good work we do in service to others has any value unless it is coupled with a dose of humility, integrity and compassion. In every community, there are many facilities catering to those less fortunate than ourselves. I urge you to pick one, it can involve people or animals, but the lessons we teach our children in the care and concern for others lay the foundations for the civic and moral development we want in the adults we grow.
Character Education Partnership (April 2008). Performance values: Why they matter and what schools can do to foster their development.