Do the Right Thing…

Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. That’s what we tell children – and adults, I might add — who are part of a community, whether that community it the family core, school, youth group, or camp. Not because someone is watching you or because it’s expected of you. Not because you are afraid what might happen if you don’t. Not because you think someone else will judge you differently. But because it’s the right thing to do.

That says it all when it comes to moral courage. In fact, I was elated to come across yet another speaker at a conference for camp professionals who supported this innate notion by documenting that, as a society, we have migrated away from character as the foundational component for raising successful adults in favor of performance as the purpose of education.

Think about this one. Gus Lee, who says his and his own children’s successes were molded by the moral lessons that happened at camp, talks about the absence of character in our children’s education. “We don’t teach moral philosophy in school but we live it in camp,” asserts the author, leader, teacher, and ethicist.

Maybe, as parents who want to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, we need to consider the fallout of this sea change: 75 percent of U.S. high school students cheat. Is it any wonder, then, that the sub-prime mortgage fraud we are living with now is at $8.6 trillion?

Are we inadvertently contributing to this societal issue that threatens our moral center by focusing our children’s education on material advantage, getting into the best schools, and being results-oriented?

Consider this model instead: We could actually coach courage by utilizing Gus’s four-point Courageous Communications Model – collegial communication, listening actively with empathy, asking questions on point, and relating respectfully. After all, if “courage is the sum of all human virtue at the testing point,” won’t the other attributes follow?

The common denominator is fear – it drives us to behaviors that Gus calls the “Pentafecta of Fear” – Denial. Excuses. Blaming others. Fleeing. Bullying. Instead, we can coach courage by modeling and inspiring our children to be their best selves. It’s a question of management vs. leadership; of results vs. character. Let’s cross that “river of fear” to the banks of courageous leadership, so that our children will learn to instinctively do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. That means that we’ll have to give up our thrust of being performance drivers by choosing what is right over how we feel.

“A Teaspoon of Courage for Kids” by Bradley Trevor Grieve provides simple encouragement for facing courage in tough and sometimes intimidating times. Black-and-white photos of animals help embolden young readers with practical tips for courageous living,

Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”

Let’s make sure we build in the courage quotient so they are able to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.

Tuck-in Tips

  • Talk about a time when you had to find your courage.
  • Have you ever seen someone do the right thing because it was the right thing to do?
  • Which animal in “A Teaspoon of Courage” was your favorite? Why?