24 February 2013

Behaviour is infectious!

I recently saw this post on my Facebook News Feed - and thought how true it is. When people make an effort to smile and greet each other, use common courtesies, wait patiently at the checkout, drive courteously and generally be pleasant, others around them often follow.

And similarly, when we are angry, discourteous and greet the world with a scowling face, the world scowls back at us.

If you ever have a chance to drive up (or down) the west coast of Australia, you will see the roadside strewn with bottles, fast food wrappings, nappies, and all manner of rubbish normally reserved for the local tip. It's almost as if every traveller on that highway has seen the rubbish and thought 'oh well, I may as well throw all mine out there too'.

And so it is, not just with litter, but with every behaviour - they are infectious! People seem to catch them and the ripples spread. I see a lot of ripples of infectious behaviour in our school - our children play well together, greet each other warmly and include new friends, use their manners freely, hand in money when they find it, smile openly and are generally cooperative, friendly and cheerful to be with. The virus behaviours are infectious too. The other day I watched a couple of boys on the oval tripping each other up and pushing each other to the ground. By the time I got the teacher's attention and pointed madly to the fracas going on behind him, the 'game' involved five boys.

The behaviour of adults is also infectious - going a little too fast on the roads, jaywalking instead of crossing at the lights, pulling up in a No Parking zone for just a couple of minutes and swimming outside the flags. For more examples closer to home/school, just take a look at parking around our school in the afternoons, stopping in the Drop Off/Pick Up Zone, and latest virus to catch on, encouraging children to 'jump the fence' or putting children over the locked gate on Ridges Boulevard. A couple of people do it, and before you know it, many are doing it, even though it's unsafe and all students have been asked to walk around to the entrance.

In many cases, children can work out when behaviour is a virus and when it's a peaceful ripple, and make a choice accordingly. But as they are learning how to get along in the world they look to adult role models to help them discern the finer points of what is 'right' and 'wrong' in any given situation. As adults it is important for us to think about what our children are learning from watching our behaviour and the choices we make - the 'rules' or safety practices we decide to ignore or just bend a little. In many cases, children are learning that it's okay to ignore rules and do what they want, as long as no one is watching.

I wonder where a learning like this could take us in the future? Will children learn, for example, that its okay to take something from someone else because no one was there to see it? Or they may decide to not wear a bike helmet because it's unlikely there will be a police officer to notice. Instead of learning to be intrinsically honest and caring about others, they learn to test the waters to see if they get caught - and rejoice in the times they 'get away with it'.

Let's all consider what our children really learn when we are rushed and frazzled and tempted to 'jump the fence', and instead, choose the long term solution of teaching our kids how to tread a safe and thoughtful passage through life.

A friend commented on the picture above in her News Feed and said 'Imagine if everyone in the world did this for just one day? It costs nothing and would create world peace'.

Have a lovely day!

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