Teaching Character Development in Early Childhood: Part 3

This is the third 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 Parts 1 and 2, 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.

The Virtues Project™: Perseverance

Perseverance is being steadfast and persistent. You commit to your goals and overcome obstacles, no matter how long it takes. When you persevere, you don’t give up… you keep going. Like a strong ship in a storm, you don’t become battered or blown off course. You just ride the waves.

— THE VIRTUES PROJECT™

Child (in a whiny voice): “But, I can’t do it!”

Show of hands: who’s heard those words before? And what do we, as parents and teachers typically say next? “Of course you can!”

Children don’t know what they can do, until they do it. They don’t know what’s possible, until we show them what’s possible. They can’t predict an outcome (that we know is there), until they see it for themselves.

“I can’t do it” is based on what they know and understand about their current circumstances. Getting to the other side, getting to “I did it!”, is a matter of calling on Perseverance.

Perseverance, just like all of the Virtues, is within us and it is learned. We all have the capacity to push through adversity, rise to the occasion, and overcome obstacles. Whether or not we choose to depends on how the strength of our Perseverance muscle. This is a “use it or lose it” kind of deal.

So, how do we encourage them to keep going when the going gets tough? How do we encourage them to get up when they fall down, try again when it didn’t work the first ten times, and just keep going, because they’re so close??

We call on Perseverance! We name it, describe it, acknowledge it, and encourage them to use it! It’s a tool in their tool box, just like a hammer will drive nails, and a saw cuts through wood; perseverance gives you the strength to try again.

Here’s what it sounds like when we talk about Perseverance at school:

Acknowledgement: “You kept going! You didn’t stop until you got all the way to 100! You used perseverance to finish your 100 board!” 

Guidance: “You’ve chosen a big work! You’re going to need to use perseverance to get this completed before circle time, okay?”

Correction: “Next time you choose a challenging work, remember that perseverance will help you finish. You don’t need to clean up when it gets hard. Just take a break and then you can come back and finish later.”

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.

The Virtues Project™: Cleanliness

Cleanliness means washing often, keeping your body clean, and wearing clean clothes. It is putting into your body and your mind only the things that will keep you healthy. It is staying free from harmful drugs. It is cleaning up mistakes and making a fresh start.

— THE VIRTUES PROJECT™
teaching character development in early childhood
Cleaning up after a spill

Cleanliness is in use on a regular basis in a Montessori classroom. The children are responsible for cleaning up their space after they finish a work, putting the material away on the correct shelf, and helping to maintain the general cleanliness of the classroom.

It’s not unusual to see a child sweeping, dusting, scrubbing, and wiping spills. A child who paints at the easel, will learn how to clean her paint cups, and a child who knocks over a cup of water at snack, will be shown where the towels are located and how to make sure the table is dry for the next person.

If something spills, we have tools available to use for cleaning, (dustpans, brooms, sponges, buckets, and towels) and a teacher will assist a child to ensure that he knows how what steps to take and how to restore order in a way that is calm and stress free. Kids make messes! It’s part of life, both at home and at school, so making sure that they know that messes are okay and we have the tools we need to deal with them, is an important part of maintaining a calm classroom environment.

If there is broken glass involved, a teacher intervenes, but, in general, if a child makes a mess, a child learns how to clean it up.

Here’s what it sounds like when we talk about Cleanliness at school:

Acknowledgement: “Floor looks so clean! Thank you for using cleanliness to sweep up all the beads that fell on the floor!” 

Guidance: “That’s quite a spill! We’re going to need to use cleanliness to make sure we get all the water off the floor, so no one slips and hurts themselves.”

Correction: “After we finish painting, we need to clean the cups, so the work is ready for the next person. Can you please come back to the easel with me and we’ll use cleanliness to make sure it’s done properly?”

Using Perseverance and Cleanliness at Home

If you’re like most parents, you sometimes wonder if you’re the parent or the maid! Somedays it seems like all you do is clean up other peoples’ messes, are we right? It’s a frustrating and thankless job, so let’s fix it!

Starting at a very young age, children can help clean up! In fact… they want to help clean up, but too often get shooed away, because “it’s easier” for parents to do it themselves. The problem with that, however, is that as time goes on, the excitement for cleaning goes away and you’ll find yourself with school-age kids who never lift a finger to help. Don’t let it get to that!

There are lots of creative ways to include your child in the cleaning process and make cleanliness part of their everyday life at home as well as at school. Here are just a few:

  • Keep a small dustpan and broom in a location that is accessible to your child and show them how to use it!
  • Mix vinegar and water together in a small spray bottle and show your child how to clean mirrors and glass doors.
  • Keep old towels or rags in a low drawer or shelf to allow your child to easily access them, if needed. And then make sure they know what to do with wet towels when they’re done!
  • Purchase a small shrub rake (you might need to cut the handle shorter) and let your child help rake leaves in the fall.
teaching character development in early childhood
Cut broom handles down to make them just the right size for enthusiastic garden helpers!

Got a big cleaning job? Time to purge the playroom or the closets? You’ve got this! Perseverance will get you through! Sometimes, we need it, just as much as they do!

Let’s go from this: “Why am I the only one that ever cleans anything in this house?!”

To this: “With a little perseverance, we can get this job done — together!”

Need more ideas? Download our free guide: Montessori at Home for plenty of suggestions to get your house in order and your kids on board!

For more information on the Virtues and for lots of examples you can use at home: Virtues 101: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the Virtues at CHMS. Next month we’ll talk about Cooperation and Respect, so be sure to subscribe to our blog  to stay in the loop!

Additional Resources:

You Might Also Like These Posts from Children’s House Montessori School of Reston:

Like what you’re reading? Leave us a comment, share this article on Facebook or with a friend, and subscribe to our blog for weekly updates!

Leave a Reply