Welcome to Joyful Toddlers!

This space is about increasing our enjoyment of the young children in our lives through concrete action and by adjusting the lens through which we view them. My work comes out of LifeWays, which is inspired by Waldorf education. I welcome your comments, and questions about increasing your enjoyment of the children in YOUR life.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Book Review: The Family Virtues Guide

Several years ago I was at a conference on early childhood. Between workshops, I was eating lunch with a friend and talking about the workshops we had attended. She had a son who was six years old, very intelligent, very intense, somewhat overwhelming. Interested in everything, he always wanted to be the center of attention, and often dominated conversations. She said, “My workshop leader said something really interesting. She works with a group call The Virtues Project, and she said that it sounds like my son has an excess of enthusiasm, which is a virtue. Instead of trying to dampen down his enthusiasm, I could work to strengthen other virtues that would balance him out. In this case, she suggested that I strengthen his sense of respectfulness.” Knowing her son as I did, I was absolutely astounded. Yes! That was exactly what was needed! What an incredible way of viewing the situation.

When I got home I had so much new information to assimilate that I never got around to looking up The Virtues Project. But that conversation stayed with me, and I often thought of it, especially when I was working with very intense children. Finally, I looked up The Virtues Project online, and ordered their book, The Family Virtues Guide: Simple Ways to Bring Out the Best in Our Children and Ourselves.

I was only moderately impressed with the book itself. It has great ideas but it seems poorly organized; it has so many sections and sub-sections within each chapter that it was sometimes hard for me to keep track of things, and I wished they gave more concrete examples. Also, it didn't address the issue of how to talk to children about virtues differently at different ages. The book goes through 52 virtues, with the idea that families might choose a virtue each week to work on and notice, then have a family meeting each week to talk about their experiences. This strategy seems much better for school-aged children, and is far too cerebral for kids under age 7, in my opinion.  However, it could still be useful for parents to pick one virtue to notice each week, without talking it out with the kids.  When we notice and appreciate virtues in our children or in others, it brings them out and enriches our lives.

All in all, there were more than enough take-away lessons that I felt the book was well worth reading. I love the idea of changing behaviors by calling up the virtue you see and then the virtue they would benefit from: patience, kindness, obedience, helpfulness. The book points out, “When a parent as educator puts a stop to negative behavior, he is being just as loving as when he applauds a child for effort.” (p.22-23).

I also got some food for thought from the book's examination of acknowledging children when you see them exhibiting virtues. First, they warn you to use 'moderation and wisdom' in dispensing praise: “Children are quite sensitive to the justice and honesty of your responses to them...Children themselves know when they have done well, when they truly merit recognition. That may be why some children get very upset in the face of undeserved or excessive praise. Undeserved praise is almost as troubling to their spirits as criticism.” (p.21).
Even more unexpected and --I thought-- insightful, they go on to say, “Please do not overdo the use of 'Thank you' such as 'Thank you for being peaceful.' The object is not to lessen the noise level for your comfort alone; it is for the child to learn the lesson of peacefulness. Overdoing thanks places you at the center of their conscience instead of the their conscience at the center of themselves.” (p.22).  I will certainly keep that in mind.

I feel like I already did my best to acknowledge and bring out virtues in the children I care for, but in a somewhat unconsious way.  This book is lovely because it gives us a framework to do it in.  Do visit their website, http://www.virtuesproject.com/index.php. If I see a workshop of theirs in my neighborhood, I will definitely sign up.



  1. We miss you, Miss Faith. I hope all is well in London. I love reading your blog and always come away with a useful little nugget to try to incorporate in our home. You won't believe Mason when you see him - he's a full-fledged toddler now! Stella continues to love school and we're all looking forward to seeing you in the new year! xo

  2. I miss you all too! I can't wait to see your little blue-eyed ladykiller! I'm so glad Stella's loving school; I was a tad worried when I heard she was going to be the only girl one of the days. On the other hand, if anyone could handle it, Stella could! I love her.