Teaching children healthy habits and manners

By Joni Downey on 13th Nov 2019

Two children drawing on a piece of paper

Characters of Character is a nonprofit organization that works with children to teach them civic values, healthy habits and manners. Its founder, Joni Downey, speaks to PURE Living Nashville to explain how parents can work with their children to foster positive behavior.

Meet Behavior Bear, Do’er Duck, Friendship Frog, Healthy Habits, Manners Monkey, Respectful Rabbit, Responsible Rabbit, Self-Esteem Elephant and Warm-Hearted Walrus. Each character represents a character trait. How does one teach a child these values?

– Literacy
– Communication
– Role Model
– Art

If you stop to think how many times have you said to your child or student, “Behave”? When we stop to explain words or actions they become much clearer. If you’re wanting your child to step up their behavior, I suggest you discuss with them what it is you do expect from them. For example, no running in the house, be a better listener and follow the rules. Perhaps make a poster together as a visual reminder to behave, read some books on characters with good behavior and be a role model of good behavior. Another trait is health. Again, how many times have you said, that’s not very healthy? Our character Healthy Hippo teaches that a healthy body is as important as a healthy mind. As an adult when we model these traits we are reinforcing them teaching others to be of good character. Besides, good character looks good on you!

I myself am a visual hands-on learner. This is one reason I began to teach painting classes with parents and children, to bring these messages to life on canvas and paper opening a discussion on the character and then bringing the character to life through art. This brings communication and imagination into practice, plus, you now have some pretty spectacular artwork to display in your home! What a great visual reminder to be of good character!

Children relate to the characters, which makes teaching them, discussing them and modeling them pretty simple. There are many simple ways to teach these traits at an early age as I mentioned above, and remember, these traits will be internalized, the child will grow with them both physically and emotionally helping to teach them these vital core values. Parents have thanked us, educators appreciate us and the kids, the kids just get us.

Helpful tips to teach character:
– Be a positive role model
– Be a communicator, discuss the trait and why it is important
– Be creative in the message, through drawing, painting and writing
– Be visual with the messages, use posters, journals, artwork

Characters of Character was established in 2007 after earning a National Promising Practice Award through Character Education Partnership in Washington D.C. Joni Downey was a teaching assistant in an elementary school at the time and a part of the Reading Team. Having the opportunity to pilot the characters while seeking a grant, Joni earned the award, she took a leave of absence to form a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization to share the important character messages nationally.

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