Character development is a central component of your child’s education at SMUS. At the Junior School character education is woven into everything we do. We draw heavily on the work of Linda Kavelin Popov, whose Virtues Project has inspired and empowered both adults and children to live by their highest values, in diverse cultures around the world.
At the Junior School, Virtues help us create an environment of respect, understanding, patience, self-discipline as well as excellence, and a joy of learning. We select a different virtue to focus on each month, and this virtue is brought to life in classrooms, in the hallways, on the playground, in Chapel and at home.
We believe it that it takes a community to raise a child. We are a team working together with you to achieve positive outcomes for your child, and learning is greatly enhanced when the messages children hear are reinforced across their different environments.
Each month we share with parents some thoughts on our Virtue, which will be sent to you along with our monthly newsletter. We hope this will help foster thinking and discussion on the topic at home, and help you provide guidance to your child in awakening and developing these essential virtues.
At chapel on Monday mornings Reverend Fletcher’s stories lend depth and understanding to our Virtue of the month. Please do join us -when your schedule permits- for this delightful start to the week!
Friendliness, our focus for the month of September is a very wholesome virtue. It’s all too easy to become consumed by our own thoughts and anxieties when everything is new and life is busy. This month, we want to shine the light on friendliness so it is not forgotten, but brought to school, daily, freshly polished!
Friendliness has a beautiful, reciprocal quality that can energize and produce joy. It is the pebble from which ripples flow. When we give friendliness, we receive. The more we give, the more we get. The more we get, the more we give! If we want others to be more friendly, the first action begins with ourselves.
Not a great deal is required of us to give the gift of friendliness. Non-verbal expressions are key ways of communicating. Making eye contact can be a wonderful first step. A warm expression that says” I understand”, or “I care” begins to build a bridge to someone we don’t know. A smile. A touch. Making connection and being “present”. Warmth in the words that we choose. An offering of help. Noticing what people may feel and may need. All contribute to a warm, welcoming and inclusive environment, where we feel known, appreciated and cared for. Friendliness matters a great deal.
One of the most frequent hopes expressed by parents is that their child will succeed in social endeavours. Children with friends have a greater sense of well-being, better self-esteem and fewer social problems when they become adults than children who do not have friends. Friends provide an opportunity for children to find out who they are in relation to other children. While we can’t make friendships happen for our children, parents are perfectly positioned to create opportunities for interaction and act as a “social coach” for their child.
Social learning is largely invisible. Social competence is not taught directly but absorbed. It develops over time as children observe and make meaning of the minutia of day to day interaction and are reinforced accordingly. Each child has their own unique profile, set of expectations and style of relating. Unstructured play is the most important vehicle of childhood for developing social skills and achieving and maintaining friendships. It is during play that communication skills develop, and self-regulation occurs as children negotiate and navigate their own boundaries. “The play date” is the ubiquitous balm for supporting children in this regard. Apply liberally!
All children experience some difficulty with peer interactions. It’s normal to experience conflict and we prefer it that way. The effects of being left out or teased by peers are usually transitory, and they provide important learning. Nevertheless, when our children come home bearing news of this nature, we can be easily triggered. Our responses to their difficulties-real or perceived- make a big difference. Temper your own emotional reaction. Provide constructive, sensitive, and timely support, and listen actively to your child without giving advice or being critical. Responses such as “Aha”, “mmm”, “I see”, “that must have been tricky…”, and “what do you think you will do if that happens again?” will maximize your child’s opportunities for learning and self-reflection. This way, your child is more likely to develop the skills to manage their strong feelings, transform a “keeper” (big problem) into a “fly-by” (little problem) and take the next steps to manage friendships in their own healthy way.
Let’s help our children by paying attention to how we discuss friendships. The words we chose (or the words we avoid using) have an impact! Terms like “bestie” set children up with expectations that become a source of disappointment if they are not realized. In a similar way, when parents avoid putting an adult or romantic imprint on a child’s friendships with the opposite sex, children develop a greater degree of ease with both male and female friends. A set of friends should be as plentiful, rich and diverse as an excellent smorgasbord!
Here are some questions to foster discussion at home…
- What does it mean to be friendly?
- Why and how do we practice friendliness?
- What is a “good” friend?
- What do we look for in our friends?
- How do you feel when people are friendly to you?
- In what ways do we communicate with our eyes, faces, shoulders, arms, hands, body posture?
- What do you do daily (at school, at home, in the community) to show friendliness?
- How do you feel when you are friendly to others?
- Is it better to have lots of friends or a couple of good ones?
- What advice would you give to someone who wanted to make friends?
- What did you do today that was friendly?
- How could you do a better job of showing friendliness?