“A national ethics survey on American youth finds one in three high schoolers stealing from a store in the past year, two in five lying to save money, and eight out of ten lying to their parents (Josephson Center for Youth Ethics, 2010).”
Why do we read alarming statistics like this one? The report goes on to explain that this survey reflected a slightly higher moral code than an earlier one done in 2008, and that is the good news. But is “slightly higher” enough when these stats still shout loud alarm signals to our society. Stealing, lying and cheating are not behaviors we want to be instilling in our young people. Not only as parents, teachers and guardians, but as a whole society we must not let this continue. If these behaviors go unattended and are ignored, as a society we are equally at fault.
Vision, modeling and teaching – what we spoke about a few months ago when we develop a plan to raise well-adjusted and responsible citizenry. If our vision is to create trustworthy kids that will turn into the adults who will be the role models of the future, that goal has to be taught. Example is the best teacher, and those adults closest to children are their first and foremost models. Yet we all have a responsibility to expect strong character development in our youth.
Character counts and expecting children to have integrity, be honest, and show loyalty to family, friends and country reflects the first pillar of character, trustworthiness. How do we teach integrity, honesty, and loyalty to family?
Integrity is having the courage to do the right thing. With peer pressure and social demands, kids will yield to the dominant culture to be accepted. That is why it is so important to know who your child is associating with and who their parents are. One day a friend told me she took her first grader to a classmates’ birthday party. When she walked him into the yard, another parent was standing amongst the kids with a gun in a holster around his waist. She told the parent she was uncomfortable with the gun and took her child home. It takes courage to do what you believe is right.
Honesty is telling the truth and not taking what doesn’t belong to you. Have you or someone you know ever asked a child to lie for you? Has it been inconvenient to take a phone call, but easy to say, “Tell her I’m not home.” If we find something that does not belong to us, do we make an effort to find the owner and show our child that it is the right thing to do? As a principal at a school that had several families with grave financial needs, I saw honesty in a moment I might not expect. A grandmother brought her young grandson into the office to turn in a five dollar bill that he found on the playground. It took courage and showed great honesty for the grandmother to do what she did. The family really needed the money. (After several days and notes, no one claimed the money and we gave it to the grandmother and child.) Not only did the little boy learn honesty first hand, but it literally paid off for him to do so!
Loyalty to family, friends and country. We want our children to be loyal to the people close to them and to the country that offers them so much. We do this by performing acts of kindness to reflect the value of other people and their meaning in our lives. We honor our flag, respect laws, and teach the value of the gifts we have as American citizens. Hanging a flag out on special holidays, teaching our National Anthem and reading children stories about great American patriots, such as honest Abe are great ways to begin.
Is there a specific memory you have about how you learned the pillar of trustworthiness? Have you had an opportunity to teach your child or one very close to you about honesty, integrity and loyalty?
A belief is the strongest foundational element anyone can ever have. If the caring adults in a child’s life believe in him/her, there is no ceiling, no ultimatum and no limitation on how far that young person can go. The Character Education curriculum taught by hundreds of schools in the Phoenix metropolitan area shows a commitment to kids and to our future citizenry. Reading, writing and arithmetic are crucial. Yet, beyond those 3 R’s lies a core of character development that begs attention and artful creation.
What is a Character Education curriculum and why do we need it, anyway? Shouldn’t parents be building the blocks of character development in their children by having a vision of who the child will become, set goals, teach by example and specific steps? The short answer form is a definitive and affirmative YES – we need it in our schools and parents should be the first teachers of their children and build that foundation.
In most instances, parents are doing a good job of building character in their children. However, it takes that entire village to raise a succesful and well adjusted kid into adulthood. We are all on board for the task and all have a responsibility for the future – at home and on the planet. Our task over the next few weeks is to talk about each of those character traits. You will see how Character Education builds strong kids into adults that are capable of making sure their efforts are duplicated. Because character building reflects a belief in kids. Having faith in the future means believing in what you and I can do in the present.
What do you think are some important character traits that kids should have? Have you taught any character traits to your children or seen your child’s school teach those special elements of belief?