The Principle: Parental example is the primary standard by which young children measure acceptable behavior. What they see and what their friends see is what they will become. Therefore, if we want our children to be decent, disciplined adults, guided by an inner compass of moral integrity, we must be watchful for opportunities to demonstrate – on purpose – the eight character markers that ensure a good life.
Character Education has been a part of the Early Childhood curriculum for over a century. But young children develop a value system more by what they see than by what is contained in a lesson plan. In fact, parental example is the primary standard by which young children measure acceptable behavior.
One HYCL Team Member’s Account:
Polly’s gift: When I was 10, I shattered my leg at the base of a tree while sledding down Lightning Hill. When I returned home from the hospital, Polly delivered a large yellow “Sunshine Box” filled with enough gifts to last the long and difficult convalescence. It was a gesture of kindness I had never known.
From that time on, I watched Polly’s parents more closely. For ten years, I studied how their family trials were always saturated with compassion and understanding. Then I moved away. They never knew the impact they had on my life or on the lives of my yet-to-be-born children. They never knew of the Sunshine Boxes we passed on or of the compassion my adult children now demonstrate for those in need. But Polly’s family and the legacy of what it means to be guided by generosity and moral integrity has had a ripple effect.
Children are under extreme pressure to be perfect. This inner demand comes from their concrete – lower order thinking skills. Until their cognitive structure becomes more complex, they will not know – unless we tell them – that none of us is perfect. And that none of us will ever achieve perfection in this life. We are all struggling, in different ways, to walk out each challenge with wisdom, forgiveness, and patience.
To choose kindness, to resist the temptation to judge one another, and to share forgiveness are the examples of excellent character we will eventually leave behind. THIS will be their inheritance. THIS will be our legacy.
The character of a man is not inherited.
It is assembled – daily, from the little acts of justice in his midst.
Compassion is shown. Kindness is passed on.
And integrity is fostered deep in a man’s soul.
Let us set the standard toward which our children can strive.
Let us all lead lives that are evident in truth and character.
For we have been given a holy calling –
to create a new world, one little life at a time.
Character Education’s Honorable Eight:
– The End –