Extension Review by Virginia Delvaux Clay County Extension educator When we talk of teaching children about character we must remember it is a journey. It does not happen overnight. Instead it takes years of guidance, practice and patience to develop the six pillars of character in young children. Parents and childcare providers of young children have a big responsibility and a big impact on the lives and development of young children in their care. In order to develop positive character traits in young children adults must set an example by demonstrating and practicing the traits themselves on a day in and day out basis. Children learn by what they live and see.
The first pillar of Character Counts is "Trustworthiness." To an infant trust is built by an adult that responds quickly and appropriately to their cries, coos and smiles. Infants that learn to trust others will be able to build this characteristic in them, as they grow older. Toddlers need to learn even simple rules such as "don't touch, that's hot." They need to have consistency from adults such as reading a story before naptime each day.
Toddlers are in a stage of everything is mine so sharing is a something that an adult will have to introduce with lots of patience. They too need consistency from adults.
Preschool age children can learn the difference between telling the truth and telling a lie. They can also be taught to respect the property of others and the importance of following through. Adults can model these behaviors by being honest with ones words, keeping your promises, and being consistent in what you say and do.
The second Character Counts pillar is "Respect." Everyone wants to be respected and children are no different. As infants, when an adult caretaker respond to their cries they learn they are important, and this is reassuring to the child. Adults that give words to a child's situation and describes what is happening help a child to learn and understand language. Being kind to others sets an example for infants.
Toddlers can be very aggressive when they are frustrated or trying to exert their independence. Sometimes they try to hit or grab to solve their problems. Most of the time they do not have the language skills or understanding to solve problems without adult guidance. Adult need to be patient and consistent when letting a toddler know what behavior is acceptable.
Preschool age children can be encouraged to use good manners. Giving a positive comment to a child that has exhibited good manners reinforces the importance of repeating the same action to the child. Reminding children others have feelings just like they do and to treat others with kindness even though they look, act, or believe differently than you do fosters the respect pillar in children.
Next week I will share with you the second two Character Counts pillars "Responsibility" and "Fairness" that adults can share with youth.