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Lessons from Professor Marvin Berkowitz

Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (August 23, 2018)


This week, our foundation, the Character Education Foundation, has the privilege of hosting Professor Marvin Berkowitz in Hong Kong. He is truly an expert in character education; he is the inaugural Sanford N. McDonnell Endowed Professor of Character Education, and Co-Director of the Center for Character and Citizenship at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.


He was speaking at a teacher training yesterday and although it was targeted at teachers, many things applied to parenting. Below are 5 things I learned:


1. Character education has to be holistic encompassing the head, heart and hands. Children have to understand the values in their heads – to know what they mean and why it’s important, to have the critical thinking to differentiate right from wrong. But more than that, they have to be emotionally engaged so that it’s not just something they do void of emotion. Children have to feel the importance of the values. But lastly, to act on them with the hands. It’s good to know the importance of being kind and feel the desire to be kind but it involves reaching out and doing something with kindness.


2. Skills need to be taught. We want our kids to know how to identify and manage their emotions, how to resolve conflicts, how to manage their own time and responsibilities etc and those are skills that can and need to be taught in order to help our children thrive.


3. Common language of core values. In the same way that a school should choose several core values to focus on (e.g. respect and responsibility), it can be the same in a family. And in addition to having a set of values to uphold, it has to be of a common language. The words and definitions should be consistent across family members and those who interact with the child. So for example, if respect is a core value, what does it mean in our household, how does it look in our home and how can all speak about it and uphold it?


4. Explain yourself. If we tell a child how we feel about him/her, whether it’s positive or negative, we have to also explain why we are feeling the way we do and how his/her actions made others feel. So for example, instead of just saying “I’m so proud of you”, you say “I’m so proud of you because you shared your favourite snack with your friend. How did it make your friend feel? Happy right? Because of what you did, you made your friend happy and I’m so proud of you for doing that”. Or if it’s negative: “I’m so disappointed in you for lying to your teacher about how you lost your homework when you actually didn’t do it. I think it makes your teacher disappointed in you too and maybe not trust what you say next time.” We can’t assume that children know why we feel the way we do so it’s important to explain it to them.


5. Private not public. When reprimanding children, do it private and not public. The message still gets across without the shame of having other people witnessing the reprimanding. So it could just mean pulling them aside and speaking to them quietly when kneeling next to them to tell them what they did wrongly. This is a show of our respect to our children and it still teaches them the same content but in a way that doesn’t shame them.


There is so much more I learnt from Prof Berkowitz and I will continue to share in the next installment of this column. One article to read by him is: http://www.character.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Understanding-Effective-Character-Education.pdf


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Marvin Berkowitz博士的課堂


這星期,品格教育協會有幸為Marvin Berkowitz博士主持講座,這位國際知名品格教育大師乃美國密蘇里大學聖路易分校的品格教育講座教授,也是該校「品格與公民教育中心」負責人。這次講座的主要對象為老師,惟很多理論亦可應用在教養上,以下是我學習到的幾項要點:


1. 品格教育需聯繫頭(思想)、心(感受)和手(行為)


小朋友需理解某些價值的定義和重要性,利用批判思維明辨是非。更重要的是,他們需要感受這些價值的重要性,而非止於頭腦上的理解。明白善良的重要性和心存善良固然重要,然而更重要的是把這顆心化為行動,向身邊的人伸出援手和多做善事。


2. 教導孩子技巧


我們希望孩子瞭解和管理自己的情緒、學習化解衝突、管理時間及負責任等。這些技巧皆需要透過孩子身邊的人教導,以助他們茁壯成長。


3. 核心價值的共同語言


學校一般會選擇集中教導多個核心價值,如尊重他人和負責任,這種模式同樣可以應用在家庭中。除了集中教導某幾種價值外,共同語言亦尤其重要,家庭成員間所用的語言,以及對某些價值的定義均須一致。例如一個家庭把「尊重」定為核心價值,這種價值在家中到底意味著什麼?大家可以如何發起討論?誰負責維護它?


4. 讓孩子明白你的想法


當我們告訴孩子自己的感受時,不論是正面或負面的,我們必須解釋自己有此感受的背後原因,以及其他人對他/她這種行為的感受。與其跟孩子說「我為你感到驕傲」,你可以說「我為你感到驕傲,因為你和朋友分享了你最喜歡零食。你的朋友有何感受?是不是很開心?你的行為讓朋友感到高興,我為你感到驕傲」。或者當那是負面的感受時,你可以說:「我感到很失望,因為你向老師撒謊了,你並不是遺失了功課,而是根本沒有做。我相信老師亦會感到非常失望,下次或許不會再相信你的話。」我們不能假設孩子明白我們有這些感受的背後原因,解釋對他們來說是非常重要。


5. 私底下教導孩子而非在公開場合


當我們訓斥孩子時,嘗試在私底下進行而非在公開場合責罵他們,這樣孩子一樣會吸收到當中的訊息,卻可避免陷入尷尬的處境和飽受途人的側目。當孩子哭鬧發脾氣時,家長可以先把孩子拉到一旁,跪下來,再小聲跟他們說出問題。這樣不但可表達我們對孩子的尊重,在教導他們的同時又不會讓他們感到羞愧。


Marvin Berkowitz博士的課堂並非僅止於此,我會在下一期的專欄分享更多,有興趣的讀者可瀏覽以下連結閲讀他的文章:http://www.character.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Understanding-Effective-Character-Education.pdf


2018年8月23日(香港經濟日報)



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