COMMENTARY 984.1: Changing Self-Limiting Beliefs and Bad Behavior

Shavonne, a third-grade teacher, was at the end of her rope with disciplinary problems, but she wasn’t enthusiastic when she was told that her school had adopted the CHARACTER COUNTS! program. Now she was expected to explicitly seek to instill and enhance in her students core ethical values like honesty, respect, and responsibility, and to help them develop positive social and emotional life skills, like empathy and self-control.

She knew that these attributes were important, but she also knew the backgrounds of many of her trouble-makers, and she thought trying to undo what their parents had done was futile, at least for hardcore kids..

Take Leon and Sam, for example. Leon had a lisp and a very short fuse, making him an easy target for Sam, who loved to tease him. Leon had a serious anger management problem and was constantly in trouble for getting in fights. Sam, on the other hand, was a predatory bully. Both had been repeatedly disciplined for their negative behavior, but nothing seemed to work.

In this context, Shavonne’s negative attitude about changing the character of difficult eight-year-olds was understandable, but it was also a major contributing factor.

In fact, unless Shavonne, Leon, and Sam could be induced to change their deeply held, self-limiting beliefs, nothing would change.

Shavonne had to surrender her “It can’t be done” attitude. Leon had to believe that letting Sam “push his buttons” was foolish and that he could control his temper if he wanted to. And Sam had to decide that it was self-destructive as well as wrong to taunt Leon.

Well, that’s a tall order. How are you going to change the attitudes and conduct of one adult and two seemingly incorrigible kids?

I’ll get into more detail tomorrow, but the essential  strategy underlying effective character development is to understand that values and attitudes are simply beliefs, that beliefs can be changed (especially if they are factually wrong), and that if you change beliefs, you can change behaviors.

Aren’t you excited about finding out how?  Tune in tomorrow.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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