I was so distracted by the election this week, I felt like the area of my brain that usually deals with Happy Shopping Things was completely knocked out of commission.
I was thinking maybe today we could talk about the resources we use to teach kids to get along with others—especially to prepare them for times when we’re apart from them and not able to coach them through a difficult interaction (”Now give that toy back to him. Now tell him you’re sorry for taking it so roughly. Now ask if you may have a turn after him”).
It has been hard during this election to explain to the children the rules that should be followed, when “shouldn’t” feels like kind of a stupid concept in the face of “look, everyone’s doing it anyway.” “Children, people shouldn’t state their views aggressively or smugly or self-righteously in forums where those views will hurt/anger their friends and family and cause pointless, unpleasant debates that lead nowhere and change no one’s mind about anything. Despite what you may have heard about Facebook.”
This morning before school we worked on the concept that people should be gracious losers and even more gracious winners. It’s common for members of the losing team to be admonished to be good sports and good losers; members of the winning team need to remember that gloating is just as much a bad-sport activity as bitter moping and declarations of cheating and unfairness. Worse, in fact, because it’s easier to effectively manage one’s character when happy.
I’ve found the Joy Berry “Help Me Be Good” books very helpful for teaching these basic elements of good behavior. I start reading them to kids around age 2, and I’d say they’re perfect right through elementary school. I like the way they go further than “Just don’t do it,” and I like that the “Here’s why” part is practical: things like “because other people won’t want to play with you” and “because it makes other people feel bad,” rather than “because it’s wrong.”
The books also separate similar/confusing issues: for example, in the book about lying, the author makes sure to mention that if someone is mistaken, or telling a pretend story without realizing you don’t know they’re telling a pretend story, those are not the same as lying. These distinctions have bailed me out of many a tricky conversation: “But HE says he’s fighting a pirate, and that’s LYING!!”
In the Being a Bad Sport book (photo from Amazon.com), she is sure to point out that good-sport behavior is the responsibility of the winning team as well as the losing one: “When bad sports win, they say and do things to make the people who lose feel bad.” Or in my words from this morning: “Victorious butt-waggling should be graciously done in private.”
The books are made for children, but I’ve been surprised to see how they’ve defined and clarified tricky issues for me as well. Have you found other good resources?