The logo for SCC includes Joy, Peace. and Harmony, so it’s only natural that Joy would be one of the aspects of Character Development that we feel is important. When a child is joyful, he eats better, sleeps better, learns better and gets along with others better. A joyful child is in his natural state of being; a state of oneness with nature, a state of being in the moment, a state of innocence. It’s not to say that a toddler having a temper tantrum is not in a natural state, he is by all means in the moment and one with nature; he is doing what is developmentally appropriate for him.
But joy is a special state of being and it encompasses more than mere happiness. Whereas happiness comes and goes according to what is going on around us, joy is not affected by circumstances. True joy grows in spite of conditions. Joy is not just laughter and smiles, it can be present during a quiet moment watching the clouds, or when the child accomplishes a task for the first time. Joy can be found in the calm of being with friends or the feeling of soft bunny fur on your cheek. Joy encompasses love for self and for others and includes a state of gratitude and compassion. The deepest form of joy includes an awareness of being connected to something higher than ourselves. With a foundation of joy in ones life, the slights by others can be more easily thrown off.
Elusive as joy seems at times, joy is essential to maximize our health and our sense of well-being. We believe there is an innate joy within everyone, and our goal is to bring that joy to the surface in the children we care for.
To accomplish this, we encourage fun and laughter, but we also place a heavy emphasis on building up each child’s self-esteem. Self-esteem means how the child feels about himself. If a child does not like himself or suffers from low self-esteem, then the joy within him will be blocked. Since all children make mistakes in learning how to be a part of this world, it is important for the child to feel lovable in spite of his actions. The child must know that even if he has not yet accomplish a skill, or has not yet mastered a specific social trait, it does not affect his identity or his worthiness as a human being.
One of the things we do to encourage positive self-esteem in the children is to be careful not only in how we correct the children, but also in our use of praise with the children. We want the child to know within themselves that they are a good person and they do not need someone else to validate their self-worth. We do not want a child to feel they are only valuable if they have pleased someone else. We do not want the child to develop a self-concept that is totally dependent on the opinions of others. Therefore, when acknowledging something a child has done well, we try to comment with a simple recognition of the desirable act and express appreciation for the benefits it brings. In other words, we try to comment about what the child has done instead of about what the child is. For instance, instead of saying, “You are such a smart girl, you did a great job of washing the dolls.” We will say, “The dolls are really spotless, thank you for helping clean up.” With this type of comment the child does not need to look to others for approval, she interprets the message herself and the image of being a helpful person comes from within herself. Likewise, if the child has been socially inappropriate, we try to address the act instead of evaluating the child. For instance, instead of saying, “You know we don’t color on the walls. I told you 3 times we don’t do that. You are a very bad boy.” Instead we will say, “I’m not happy to see you colored on the wall, it made a big mess. I need you to get a paper towel and come help me clean it up.” This message addresses what was done and allows the child to see his mistake, but it also empowers him to be part of correcting the mistake and does not attack his character or damage his self-esteem.
As with so many aspects of character development, children need to see role models, and this includes the expression of joy. Our staff members are encouraged to let go and express their inner joy so the children in our care can see and feel the beauty of embracing the joy within themselves.
“Joy is not just laughter and smiles, it can be present during a quiet moment watching the clouds, or when a child accomplishes a task for the first time, or when a child lets their body do magnificent things; like running and jumping.”