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Character Kids 2014

It’s a new year and a new opportunity to dream again! This year I’m excited about adding a youth council to my character education program. I look forward to seeing what great things will become of this merging of young and mature minds. I think that it is so important to allow youth to have a voice. I’ve learned so many things from my own children, like how to keep things simple when I want to make a “mountain out of a molehill,” or that I really don’t understand “everything” that they are experiencing these days in school, even though I’ve “been there, done that”. Sure, I agree, for the most part, that there is nothing new under the sun, but surely 21st century youth are experiencing some issues that those of us over 35 never imagined we’d have to deal with during our youth.

Take for example the terms, cyberbullying, road rage, knock-out, Internet, cell phones, website, tweets, Twitter, Facebook and any other 21st century term you can think of. They were unheard of when I was growing up over 35 years ago. We may have seen a form of road rage, and yes, cell phones and computers have been around for much longer than someone younger than 20 may realize, but most of these terms, issues and products did not exist, at least in their present form, 30 years ago. Youth are dealing with the age of technology, knowledge and major life issues that require consistent adult guidance, advocacy and wisdom as well as their own voice to express how these issues affect them. After all, they will be leading our world in a few years, so it is imperative for adults to listen to what they have to say and gain some insight into their perspective of life.

My hope is that the youth council will not only represent the Maximizing Character program by exhibiting good character in their respective homes and communities, but I hope that they will become global leaders. One way that I believe that adults can give youth an opportunity to express themselves and develop into productive citizens is through role play, service learning, mentoring opportunities, designing and implementing projects and through cultural arts. Through these modes of expression, youth can develop their communication skills, increase their capacity to lead others and develop social responsibility. 21st century youth also have an opportunity to make sense of their current environments, the world and establish a worldview.

I’m rooting for our youth and expecting great things from my group of character leaders as well as those children and young adults that we hope to impact as we promote excellence in character. I look forward to shining our light as we travel from school to school, community event to community event and even as we connect to children and families around the world in order to support an important cause or create positive change in areas affected by poverty, disease or injustices. Keep checking in with us this year to see what the Maximizing Character youth group is up to. Here’s to 2014! Elevation, Manifestation and Multiplication!

Character Not Violence

MAVEventThis weekend I will be participating in a Walk-for-Life with a non-profit called Mothers Against Violence. As I prepare for the event as one of the vendors for their block party, I thought about the message that I want to share with the parents and their children. This event will be taking place in an urban community where violence is commonplace. While this event seeks to bring awareness to the violence that is rampant in our local community and all over neighborhoods in the country, I want to bring a message of hope.

Violence is such a general word with so many meanings. In this day and time violence is everywhere. It is evident within private homes, in our schools, the workplace and of course, the media (you didn’t think I’d leave them out did you?). Violence equates to murder, abuse whether physical, emotional or verbal. It can be domestic or international. And by the way, yes, bullying is considered a form of violence. I’m not only referring to the nationally recognized issue that schools and communities are so diligently fighting to end, I’m also referring to the type of bullying that takes place daily among adults in the form of domestic violence or other forms such as intimidation in the workplace.

Since my passion is to make a difference in the lives of youth and families, I’ll stay in my lane and focus on the connection between character and violent behaviors. I believe that character begins in the home with the primary caregivers. Whatever you are doing and saying, trust, that if there are children in the midst, they are watching and learning. With that being said, the example has to start with the adults. We all know this, but how many of us pay close attention to our response when someone treats us unfairly in the checkout line, cuts us off on the highway or inflicts some type of injustice upon us? Our precious resources, youngest citizens and future leaders and caregivers behave based upon what they have seen and know from their day to day experiences. If hitting, yelling and cursing are behaviors that they see and hear regularly, chances are they are going to do the same thing. I’m amazed at parents who behave this way at home and then act amazed, even dumbfounded when their children begin school and in a matter of days they get a call from the teacher reporting poor behavior. This behavior did not just show up at school. In most cases, the behavior was already going on or manifested as a result of what the child learned from the only examples they have ever known.

During this upcoming event my goal is to remind parents and children that violence is real and that the different forms of violence can be reduced by making positive changes in their daily behaviors and attitudes. Establishing values in the home, teaching and modeling respect, responsibility, honesty and fairness and other values are ways to start helping children develop character. Spending time with the family conversing about potential dangers and exploring solutions, engaging in necessary safety drills or role playing in order to learn conflict resolution skills are other ways that youth and families can reduce violence. And might I add that sometimes it’s the caregiver who needs to be taught or re-taught some basic character virtues in order to produce a non-violent, compassionate, intelligent, talented and productive life that influences their children. As I join Mothers Against Violence in the Walk-for-Life this weekend, share information and have a little fun in the process, I hope that families will leave with a sense of empowerment to take back their homes, communities and schools.