Justice, a universal virtue described by positive psychologists as necessary for a happy life, is comprised of the character strengths of citizenship, fairness and leadership. Vibrant community life is dependent on the civic strengths and skills of its members.
The job of citizenship brings with it a need for social responsibility, loyalty and teamwork. A friend, a new American citizen, wrote, ''I am determined in helping this country become as great as it should be according to the morals established in its constitution.'' Would that all of us could have this attitude of loyalty, obligation and teamwork towards the good of all people.
To be strong citizens we need to have robust interpersonal skills. We need to be able to work well as part of a team or as a member of a group. We need to do our share and not say, ''That's somebody else's job.'' We need to participate in the goal setting and objectives of our groups, and we need to work to see that the agreed upon ideas become physical reality despite whatever difficulties occur. The word ''loyal'' derives from the words legal and law, which in turn mean ''that which is laid down.'' The idea of citizenship originated with the concept that we come together as a group and decide what we need to do for the common good and then pledge our part, our loyalty, to make it happen.
Fairness is part of justice. ''Fair,'' with its roots in Old English words for lovely and pleasant, connotes that when things are done fairly the situation turns out pleasant for all involved. To help make things ''lovely,'' though, takes a dispassionate and objective mind to determine how to handle conflict in a manner that is consistent with a group's rules, logic and ethics. Sorting through the issue to determine fairness to all concerned is usually not considered a pleasant or ''fair'' task. Being fair, however, is an essential component of the civic strengths that create justice.
Leadership skills determine the level of justice in a community. Strong leaders know how to encourage others to get important tasks completed. At this same time, strong leaders manage and maintain good relationships and respect within the organization. Strong leaders recognize problems readily and address each issue by organizing their groups to discuss and remedy the situation. Strong leaders have the determination to see these solutions to fulfillment.
Skills in citizenship, fairness and leadership all begin at home. Family is where we first practice working with others, being loyal to a group and doing one's share. It is in our families that we begin to learn about making situations fair and pleasant to everyone in the group. It is in our homes that we model and learn leadership by encouraging each family member to do tasks important to the group, by maintaining good relations within the group and by organizing group activities and making sure that they occur.
If we want to see justice in the world, we need to realize it begins at home.
Next week: Teaching Temperance
Kids Talk™ is a column dealing with early childhood development issues written by Maren Stark Schmidt. Mrs. Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland.
She has over 25 years experience working with young children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. She is also Creative Director for a video-based reading series for children ages three to six, The Shining Light Reading Series. Contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Complete Collection of the Shining Light Reading Series Now Available on DVD
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