How values build community and self-esteem

According to parenting expert Barbara Coloroso,  our children need to be able to see us take a stand for a value and against injustices, be those values and injustices in the family room, the boardroom, the classroom, or on the city streets. She also speaks about the importance of a child developing self-esteem through building valuable community relationships. But what exactly does community mean given the changing dynamic of today’s neighbourhoods and families?

Community can refer to the place where you live, but there are also ethnic communities, online communities or communities based on common interests. The Oxford Dictionary’s multiple definitions of community reflect the changing ways people identify with one another. It includes location-based definitions of community, but also community as “people…considered collectively, especially in the context of social values…”.

Values are integral to building community. They were once learned primarily through relatives, neighbours and organized religion, but as more and more people live far from extended family and fewer are attending church, synagogue or temple, parents are seeking support as they strive to teach values. When children see the values they are taught reflected in a larger society,  a sense of belonging and community builds and a child’s self-esteem grows. Dr. Neil Hawkes, who worked with UNICEF on values education, states that, “What appears to be missing from many schools… is a shared ethical vocabulary, based on universal positive human values, which can provide a sense of direction and vision about how to nurture a positive sense of self…”.

Research has shown that parents choose to send their children to independent schools not only for academic excellence, but because these schools have strong senses of community and a commitment to moral values (Bassett, NAIS). In fact, many independent schools view academic excellence as being inextricably linked to values. The two cannot be separated. For example, at Pickering College the focus is on empowering students to become the best they can be mentally, physically, morally and spiritually. This focus means that students and staff strive to live by our core values of service to community, compassion, integrity, respect and responsibility. This shared endeavour towards overall excellence builds community (of course, a shared sense of fun helps, as evidenced in the residences and dining hall on campus!). To learn more about the link between values, community and self-esteem, visit the Pickering College website at www.pickeringcollege.on.ca.