Character education is not the latest fad, but (our) . . . oldest mission.”   

                        Kevin Ryan ~ Center for Ethics ~ Boston University

Last week we began our consideration of the Six Pillars of Character that will build values and help our kids know that we believe in them and that they truly can make a difference in the future.  Recently Education Week, a national weekly education periodical, published a study in an article entitled, “Youth’s Lack of Values, Character Worries American Public.”  The study revealed that the American public is anxious about what they see to be a crisis in the moral well-being of youth and teens. A full 61% of the adults surveyed said that young people are failing to learn respect, responsibility and honesty.  In fact, only 37% believed that that children of today will make the U.S. a better place.  What a desperate finding and even worse reality!

We CAN disprove this study and we can do so by teaching those values to our kids. With respect being such a strong pillar and one that provokes much concern in society today, we will  concentrate our thinking on the value of modeling this attribute today.  As adults, we must look for times to teach the character traits and values.  Here are some golden moments to consider.

  • Driving down the street – perhaps on the way to school – we see a chance to shoot ahead of another care or dash forward and beat out a pedestrian.   If this happens to you …stop and allow someone to go ahead and make a point to let your child know what you are doing.  Model, Model, Model!

  • Saying please and thank you – nice reminders.  Another study indicated that when someone responds to us with the words,  “thank you,” certain muscles in our jaw automatically relaxes.

  • Showing concern for those who have a disability that limits their physical, emotional or mental well-being.

At an annual Cub Scout event last weekend, my granddaughter ran off to a corner and began to cry, pointing her finger in the direction of a group of adults.  As I looked toward the front row of the event, I noticed a man with a wooden leg.  It was a warm day and he was wearing shorts, readily displaying the wooden connections and hinges that attached to the rest of his body.  Being four years old, my little granddaughter had never seen anyone with a wooden leg before and she was frightened.  (“He smiled at me and scared me,” she shouted between burying her head in my shoulder and sobbing.)

After comforting her and making her feel secure, I saw a perfect chance to explain how some people lose a leg or an arm because they fought in a war or became very sick.  Of course, she wanted to know if that would happen to her.  Assurances that she was safe and did not need to think about that possibility, the time was appropriate to develop respect for someone who was physically disabled. When she had more information, she stopped crying and became interested in the explanation.

Have you ever experienced an event or situation where you modeled the character trait of RESPECT to a child or a young person?