Teaching Character Development in Early Childhood: Part 2

This is the second post in a monthly series that will be devoted to practical tips for using the Virtues language when teaching character development in early childhood. We’ll explain how we use this program in our classrooms, what it sounds like in conversation, and how you can use it at home in a variety of examples. We’ll be highlighting two Virtues each month, so be sure to subscribe to our blog for monthly Virtues tips that you can use at home!

If you missed last month’s post, you can catch up here:

And, if you haven’t already downloaded our mini guide — Virtues 101: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the Virtues at CHMS, you’re going to want to do that now.

Go ahead, we’ll wait.

….

All caught up? Good! Let’s dive into today’s Virtues:

The Virtues Project™: Helpfulness

Helpfulness is being of service to others, doing thoughtful things that make a difference in their lives. Offer your help without waiting to be asked. Ask for help when you need it. When we help each other, we get more done. We make our lives easier.

— THE VIRTUES PROJECT™
Two boys practicing helpfulness / teaching character development in early childhood
The job gets done faster, when we help each other!

Young children love to help! The like to know that they are contributing, that they are needed, and that their actions are having a positive impact on the people in their environment. So, tell them! Beyond just saying “thanks for your help,” give you child more information about how they are being helpful, what that means to you or your family, and how they can continue to be helpful in the future.

Children can be fickle, as you’re probably already aware, so don’t be surprised when their urge to help comes and goes. Just keep acknowledging it when you see it, expecting it when appropriate, and — as with ALL the Virtues — modeling it yourself.

In the classroom, we point out Helpfulness all the time! It takes a lot of work to keep the classroom running smoothly, and we can’t do it without a lot of help from the children. As your child gets older, expect their help in different areas of the home: cleaning up toys, helping with chores around the house, and other day to day activities.

You don’t have to do it all yourself! Acknowledge their helpfulness when you see them using it, correct them when you don’t, and let them know that you expect it in different circumstances. For example:

Acknowledgement: “You put your books away without being asked. Thank you for your helpfulness.” 

Guidance: “There are a lot of grocery bags in the car. If we all carry one bag inside, we’ll get done faster. I’d appreciate your helpfulness with this.”

Correction: “When it’s time to clean up the toys, we all need to do our part so that it gets done quickly. Next time, please use helpfulness and start putting toys away the first time I ask.”

Psst! Not sure what we mean by “Acknowledgement, Guidance, and Correction”? It’s in our mini guide — Virtues 101: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the Virtues at CHMS.

Moving on…

The Virtues Project™: Orderliness

Orderliness is being neat and living with a sense of harmony. You are organized, and you know where things are when you need them. Solve problems step by step instead of going in circles. Order around you creates order inside you. It gives you peace of mind.

— THE VIRTUES PROJECT™

This can be a tough one for parents to get a handle on. If you’re like the majority of parents out there, you’re still in some form of Survival Mode on a day-to-day basis. Between work, home, school, activities, and everything else that lands on your plate, it’s all most people can do to just get from one day to the next. Throw in multiple children at multiples stages of life and Orderliness can seem impossible. Yet — and this is a big YET — it’s the ONE thing that will help life come together and settle down.

Taking the time to organize your home, your schedule, your closets, the playroom, and whatever else needs organizing, will have a ripple effect on your family. Orderliness is calming. When we know what to expect, we live with less chaos, less stress, and are more at ease. Everything from a regular bedtime routine, to eating meals at the table, to putting the puzzles on the bottom shelf, is Orderliness.

When we teach our children to create order, restore order, and function with order we are teaching them more than just how to tidy up or leave the house on time. We are teaching them to organize their thoughts and actions. They are learning to sort and organize, manage their time, anticipate and predict, and plan ahead.

A Montessori classroom is nothing without Orderliness. Every material, every tray, and every rug, has a home. This orderliness means that materials seldom get lost or broken. A teacher can look at any shelf in her classroom and immediately see that something is out of place.

A place for everything! The Montessori classroom is neat and organized.

The children take responsibility for alerting teachers to missing or lost pieces, and the classroom stays cleaner and more organized. “A place for everything and everything in it’s place!” Whoever said that, must’ve been a Montessorian at heart!

This could be the topic for a whole other blog post, but for now, here are some examples of what it sounds like to talk about Orderliness, draw attention to it, and ask for it in certain circumstances.

Acknowledgement: “Look at how we’re using Orderliness to straighten up the playroom: the Legos are in the Lego bin, the books are on the bookshelf… everything is where it belongs!” 

Guidance: “We need to leave for school on time tomorrow. Let’s use Orderliness and get your clothes set out now, so you are ready to go in the morning.”

Correction: “Yes, it’s sad when we lose our things and can’t find them. We need to use Orderliness when we clean up, so we put things in the correct place. Did you put your baby doll in the doll basket? Oh, look! I found her under the couch! That’s not where she belongs!”

Using Helpfulness and Orderliness at Home

Helpfulness and Orderliness go hand in hand. We use helpfulness to restore orderliness, and using orderliness is helpful! When you see these virtues in action, draw your child’s attention to them. You will reinforce one, which will help with the other.

Talk about Helpfulness and Orderliness as positive things! As parents, we oftentimes feel under-appreciated and taken for granted. Rather than point out how much you’re doing to take care of your family in a begrudging or sarcastic kind of way, show them that it makes you happy to help and that you value orderliness, because it helps your family function better.

Let’s go from this: “No, here… I’ll do it, since apparently I’m the only one who knows how to fold laundry in this house!”

To this: “I am happy to help you fold the laundry… can you please put it away? It will go so much faster, if we work together!”

For more information and lots more examples you can use at home, remember to download our mini guide — Virtues 101: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the Virtues at CHMS. Next month we’ll talk about Perseverance and Cleanliness, so be sure to subscribe to our blog  to stay in the loop!

Additional Resources:

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