Children are impressionable things, says DIANA PATCHETT, Executive Principal at St Margaret’s College. Here, she discusses how we can encourage positive habits in our young ones.
I love to spend time in the St Margaret’s College Pre-School; it never fails to brighten my day. Sliding in alongside the free play of children offers a beautiful insight into their wonderings, their imagination and their growing understanding of the world around them. It can also be a direct line of sight into the family home. Many parents may be surprised (perhaps shocked) to know that the behaviour of their children in these natural moments is also often a clear reflection of parent behaviour.
Children do what they see adults do. From a very early age, they begin to learn by imitation – ‘monkey see, monkey do’ describes the typical training ground for children when acquiring the early skills of life. It is during these impressionable years that parents take advantage of their power as a role model in teaching their child to brush their teeth, use a knife and fork, and establishing any number of other positive habits.
As children get older, they identify with parents and other significant adults and begin to model their behaviour on those who they form relationships with, who they love and admire. By now, our young people have established most of the essential life skills, but their attitudes and dispositions are still very much ‘under construction’. Will they be someone who judges someone based on race? Will they offer assistance to anyone in need? Will they think it is okay to drop their litter on the ground? Will they be kind?
With young people exposed to such a plethora of potential influencers – real and virtual, you can see how important it is for the school environment to be one that surrounds children with adults who are role models for positive behaviour. At St Margaret’s, we don’t leave these unintended lessons to chance. We are a community that actively looks for opportunities to demonstrate.
At the core, from Kindergarten through to Year 13, our programmes provide a common language and focus for the development of internationally minded people who, recognising their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world. Key attributes such as being caring, open-minded and principled, are woven into the curriculum and lived each day by teachers, staff, and students.
We are proud of the academic, cultural, and sporting achievements of our students, but it is the fact that they are genuinely nice people that matters most. We take our responsibilities for enabling young people to be the best people they can be very seriously, and we invest time and resources to optimise staff welfare and then reap the many benefits of a happy school.
A child is a mirror, an echo field that returns what is sent in its direction. We don’t always see the connection between our behaviour and a child’s behaviour, but it is there. In the words of Dorothy Law Nolte, “If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect. If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place to live.”