Since I’ve written a few blogs recently on pushing, mean girls and bullying, I thought I would introduce a book I used in the late 1990s when my daughter was young. I wanted to find a way to work with her on caring, kindness and respect. I learned about The Family Virtues Guide, by Linda Kavelin Popov, Ph.D., from teacher friends who used the program in their classrooms in Minnesota. Dr. Popov founded the The Virtues Project, in Canada in 1991. Today the program has ignited a global revolution in 95 countries. Its mission is to offer multicultural programs and materials which empower people to remember who they are and to live by their highest values. The project was honored during the International Year of the Family by the United National Secretariat as a model global program for families of all cultures.
The book is about virtues, which are universally valued by all faiths and cultures in the world. The Guide is based on sacred traditions of the world’s religions, yet it does not promote the practices or beliefs of any specific faith. There are 52 virtues listed in the book including: caring, compassion, consideration, forgiveness, generosity, helpfulness, kindness, love, respect, responsibility, service, trust, and truthfulness.
I was thrilled with this guide, because it allowed the entire family to take part. Every day our daughter selected a card from the deck and read it out loud. If an incident would arise, we might select a card for her. Her father or I would read the chapter on the virtue from the book and we would discuss it as a family. And, of course she had her own ideas about what a specific virtue meant to her. For instance, if the consideration card was selected for the day, we talked about having respect for other people and their feelings, and thinking about how our actions affect someone else. We discussed how to practice compassion starting with paying attention to herself and to others. It meant that she needed to be aware that day at school when someone looked lonely or sad. Then practice what she learned by doing something nice for the other chid. For example, befriend a new student, listen to a friend that has been teased, or let someone go first. At the end of the day during dinner, we’d discuss if we had the opportunity to show compassion. And, as parents we shared about how we each used the virtue at work. Some days were more fruitful than others. It became a game and we had fun with it.
The book and deck of cards were retired and sat on my book shelf for a few years, until my husband’s daughter was looking for a way to help her very competitive boys get along. So I passed along my book and cards and she began to use the program with her sons. It too became a family project.
This also is an outstanding classroom project. There are instructions at the end of the book about making a Virtues Tree Felt Board. It has many applications in the classroom and can be used to acknowledge student efforts. With bullying on the rise, it would be a helpful project to use with young children.