|Sandra McLeod Humphrey|
Sandra McLeod Humphrey is a retired clinical psychologist, a character education consultant, and an award-winning author of seven middle-grade and young-adult books. She's also the recipient of the National Character Education Center's Award for Exemplary Leadership in Ethics Education (2000) and the 2005 Helen Keating Ott Award for Outstanding Contribution to Children's Literature. I am delighted she is today's guest blogger.
In working with young people—as a clinical psychologist, a volunteer and an author—I have noticed many lack a sense of direction in their lives and have no strong set of personal values or belief system.
Our character is an integral part of who we are, and having a strong set of values helps us define our character.
Strong character, however, isn't instinctive. It's learned, and it's never too early to begin talking with our young people about personal values and helping them define and develop their own code of moral conduct.
Just as bodybuilding builds strong physical muscle through "sets" and "reps," we also need to help our kids build good moral muscle.
These books can help children practice or rehearse what they would do in different situations before they are actually confronted by those situations in real life. They also can help youth think and talk about moral issues. Kids love to talk, and we just have to give them the opportunity to do so.
Here are a few ideas you could write about:
- "Honor" is an old-fashioned word. What does it mean, and has it gone out of style? I have found that some kids have no clue what "honor" or "reputation" really means. I also have found that kids like the concept of a moral compass and can relate quite easily to this topic.
- How will you feel about the choices you make a month or year from now? You will probably be amazed at how dramatically our kids' concepts of time differ from our own.
- Is your speech a reflection of your character? Is your speech different in the locker room than it is at home or at church? Do you have more than one language—a different language for different occasions? This question usually provokes a lot of discussion and disagreement between kids about what's acceptable and what's not.
- What does "being cool" really mean to you? This one can stimulate some great discussions with a lot of varied and spontaneous feedback.
- How do you decide whether something is right or wrong? Is it just a question of whether anyone else will get hurt? This one will really get kids thinking and hopefully talking.
- How important is winning? Does it really matter how we win? This one can frequently provoke some unexpected personal revelations by kids.
- Do you think that these days just about everyone cheats to get what they want? You may or may not be surprised by just how prevalent cheating is and by how many kids admit to doing it.
- How much is trust worth? If it's a choice between missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity or dishonestly exploiting a situation to your own personal advantage, how would you decide what to do? The kids themselves will come up with dozens of hypothetical situations for this one.
- Do you think it is ever OK to break a promise? This can lead into some great discussions about our responsibility to other people when they are in trouble, e.g. when they are using drugs, hiding an eating disorder, etc.
- Would you choose character over conformity? This one will stimulate some great discussions about peer pressure
WHERE TO FIND SANDRA
You can learn more about Sandra's books by visiting her Web site at www.kidscandoit.com or her blog, Dare to Dream Big!, at www.kidscandoit.com/blog/, which provides a new example each week of someone who had a dream and how they fulfilled it.
Watch next Thursday for an author interview with Sandra!
The winner of Nina Jade Singer's SECRETS OF THE KNIGHT is Chey. Congratulations, and thank you very much to everyone who entered!