Teaching character education one pillar at a time – Part 5: Caring

How can we show that we care? By showing compassion in what we do and how we think, we can show we do care.

Michigan State University 4-H Youth Programs offers youth ages 5 – 19 years old a chance to learn new skills, make decisions and healthy choices and to have fun. Whether youth join a 4-H club or attend a one-time training, character education can be incorporated in the program or club meeting. Now more than ever, character education needs to be on the agenda.

In 1992, Michael Josephson brought together a group of educators to create the Six Pillars of Character—core ethical values for youth to learn and adapt. The six pillars are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. In this fifth article of reviewing CHARACTER COUNTS!, we will be focusing on caring, what it means and how we can use it.

Caring means:

  • Being kind
  • Forgiving others
  • Being compassionate
  • Showing others you care
  • Helping those in need

The color associated with caring is red. Showing you care comes from the heart. What can be done to incorporate this color in teaching the character pillar of caring? By using the color that goes with the character, younger children will learn to associate the color to the word.

For younger children, try making a kindness tree by placing leaves on a tree when someone does a kind act. Tell children that doing acts of kindness are what caring people do. Post a paper tree on the wall

And place a new leaf on the tree each time a kindness act is done. Put the child’s name and what the action was on each leaf. Talk about the tree throughout the time it is posted and remind children to continue acts of kindness, even when no one is looking.

When working with middle school and high school-age youth, discuss youth mentoring as an act of kindness. Teens can learn the importance of caring for younger children, whether they are a 4-H teen leader working with the younger kids in their club or have younger siblings that need their help. A mentor program can be started in the classroom or other youth settings. After-school settings for older youth to tutor the younger kids, babysitting or acting as a big brother or big sister all show that you care.

To learn about the positive impact children and families experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2016 impact report: “Preparing young children for success” and “Preparing the future generation for success.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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