Head of School Blog

Cultivating a Sense of Honor in Children

Head of School: Jill Singleton | Volume: 6 Issue: 6 | October 12, 2016
At our Spirituality Assembly a couple of weeks ago, the students were presented with the following “What Would You Do?” – an exercise designed to support the development of sound personal ethics and moral decision making: “Brandon was in third grade when he was caught cheating on his Math quiz. He had been doing poorly in Math and his parents had threatened that if he didn’t raise his grades they wouldn’t let him play on the baseball team. So he cheated. When the teacher asked him about it, he denied it at first, but later that night he couldn’t fall asleep. He felt like maybe he should tell his teacher the truth, but then again, he really wanted to play baseball.  What Would You Do?”

I was impressed with the wisdom in the answers from the students in the Elementary Division. Several students offered that they would tell their teacher, and explain that the math is really hard for them, and that they should explain to their parents and teachers that they need extra help. One Third Grader said something that I found so refreshing I have found myself reflecting back on it many times since: “I would tell my teacher that I had cheated,” the child explained.  “And then I would accept the consequences.” The answer impressed me for several reasons, but what I find myself thinking about most is this child’s desire to be honorable, to do the right thing – to accept the consequences for her actions and to learn from them - and how this desire gets innocently thwarted by parents and teachers who “rush to rescue” a child from facing the consequences of their actions.  

While we all know that the most important life lessons are those that are hard-won, resulting from failure or inadequate effort, letting our children learn from this school of hard knocks is difficult for any parent. Dr. Robim Bermin, author of Permission to Parent: How to Raise Your Child with Love and Limits, says that “If you treat your kids like they are ‘fragile,’ they might just stay fragile.”  As the “emotional coach” for our children, Dr. Bermin claims it is imperative that we help our children self-manage their feelings, including feelings of unhappiness and disappointment. I couldn’t agree with her more.

“I would accept the consequences,” my student said.  And to her, and to her parents, I say “Bravo!” I think Dr. Bermin would agree that this is a child who is developing the ability to face and learn from her mistakes, to accept consequences, and to make amends – skills that will benefit her for a lifetime.

(Read more about Dr. Bermin’s work here.)

Questions?  Comments?  Ideas?  I’d love to hear them – email me: jsingleton@allsaintsdayschool.org