Super Powering Virtue in Children

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"Super powering virtue in kids" by Cathy Gilmore (CatholicMom.com)

Photo by Poropak Apichodilok (2016) via Pexels, CC0 Public Domain

VIRTUE POWERS BINGO is a new approach to family virtue formation in which young children (approximately 3 to 8 years old) discover that virtues are their real superpowers! Parents crave simple ways to help motivate children to desire to be good. The Virtue Powers Bingo Page is the free printable tool that I created that helps do just that.

Teaching kids know and recognize true goodness is where we start, but motivating children to think and act in ways of holiness is the end game, and the holy grail, of Catholic parenting. This may replace the other more complicated good behavior incentive/reward systems you may have tried, or are trying right now. Can a little bingo sheet help with family virtue formation in a big way? Try it and see.

Here’s how it works.

Virtue Habit Groups

VIRTUE POWERS BINGO designates thirty different Everyday Virtues™ in six Virtue Powers habit groups. Each group category has a memorable name and a little icon that children can recall and visualize. Each virtue habit group’s name has an initial that builds the acrostic: POWERS.

  • POWER Core virtues include: faith, humility, acceptance, mercy and hope. They come from deep inside, the core of who we are.
  • Attitude OPTICS virtues like: modesty, adaptability, peacefulness, kindly humor, and seeing & seeking justice, show how virtue can strengthen our attitude and frame the way we look at life.
  • Think & WONDER virtues are internal strengths such as faithfulness, wisdom, steadfastness, integrity, and charity. They dispose us for goodness through what we think and wonder about.
  • Emoji Energy virtues such as joyfulness, trust, devotion, empathy, and gratitude flow from emotion and feelings expressed in a loving way.
  • RESOLVE & Choose virtues such as cooperation, patience, fortitude, prudence, and self-discipline demonstrate loving strength in our decision-making.
  • SUPER-Power Action virtues such as honesty, inspiration, kindness, courage and perseverance are where loving habits of the heart reach out and touch everyone.

Together, these habits are each child’s Virtue Powers! These spiritual strengths are even bigger than earthly pretend superpowers because they last forever, even after someone dies. Children think it’s cool that virtues are strength in the soul that lasts for eternity.

Virtue Power Strengths

Together, the six groups of virtue habits are called Everyday Virtues because they are the tiny habits that we can learn to choose in each moment every day. For children, and anyone who is at an earlier stage on their spiritual journey, these can be considered lower-case, small “v” virtues. They are like virtue seeds that may or may not be motivated by grace. These virtues are good thoughts and actions that we choose based on our own willpower. Children can picture the small “v” virtues symbolized by holding up a peace sign with their hand. Good habits based on willpower, or motivated by rewards, may not have the most pure of intentions, but don’t worry.  It is exactly where all of us begin as we take tiny steps on the journey to sanctity.

G-Force Power

The Everyday Virtues become uppercase, big “V” Virtues when we allow God’s grace to flow in us to give our willpower G-Force. (That’s God- or Grace-Force!) God accelerates our efforts and can give our Virtue Powers a super strength and JOY that we never thought possible. When children sincerely pray tiny everyday prayers, like “Jesus, I Trust in You” or “Jesus, I love You, save souls” they plug into that G-Force and access the power of God’s grace-infused strength. Spending time with Jesus at Mass, Adoration, and Rosary time plugs into G-Force power too. Children can picture G-Force Virtue Powers by making a BIG “V” shape by holding arms up and out above their heads.

Here’s a helpful distinction of terms. So, how do the Virtue Powers names and habit groups fit with the other typically described virtue terminology? As God’s grace becomes the power source for our habits, the big “V” virtues take on more of the depth and character of traditionally described theological, cardinal, moral and human virtues. The VIRTUE POWERS BINGO Everyday Virtues are the seeds that can grow into strong and mighty spiritual and moral holiness.

Virtue Heroes

Children who play VIRTUE POWERS BINGO are called “Virtue Heroes.” This is a classic example of fake it till you make it. If they call themselves Virtue Heroes, they can be more apt to try to act in a way that makes the name true. The parents are “Virtue Leaders” and guide the the heroes to strengthen their Virtue Powers each and every day.

Some people think that we shouldn’t use the grown-up words for virtues with young children. I disagree. If children can learn the names of an array of dinosaurs, they can learn the big-word names for virtues. Use the proper names and as they grow up, the word simply grows in depth and meaning.

Read Virtue

The first way children can look for virtue is in the stories they read. Religious and non-religious stories have lots of examples of Everyday Virtues that the children can notice and point out to you. When they do, help them name it, find the virtue habit group on their Bingo Sheet and color in a square. Here’s a link to Virtue Works Media to find some good virtue-recommended books.

Conversely, try also to help your child notice when the books they read mock or demean adults, parents or other children. Teach them to set those books aside. Laughter at anyone’s expense is not a virtuous habit, and too often it is now standard fare in pop-culture children’s reading.

Watch for Virtue

Children also enjoy finding virtues in the TV shows or movies they watch. Once again, the everyday virtues can be seen in both sacred films and videos and secular ones as well. Help them learn to notice the big “V” virtues motivated by faith and grace, and the small “v” virtues that are great efforts toward goodness that aren’t powered by God’s G-Force. Help them find more virtue powers squares to color from what they watched.

In terms of watching, be mindful also of the way our culture is now saturated with video content everywhere with screen access in restaurants, homes, and hand-held devices. The somewhat passively experienced news content your children see can have a deep affect on them. It’s not virtuous for children to grow up learning that it is OK to hate the person who leads them, or that it is OK to call people with whom they disagree by mean and ugly names, or that it is OK to shout angrily in the street at neighbors to make a point. But that is too often what modern news coverage models for them.

Think with Virtue

Thinking is more abstract, but is still worth the effort for parents as Virtue Leaders to engage with kids. Talking about what is going on inside your child’s head, and considering if it’s virtuous or not, is valuable. If they think on purpose about something virtuous in order to color in a bingo square, it’s still OK. That is a little “v” virtue seed being planted. Looking for virtue in their thoughts can make for some adorable conversations between you and your Virtue Heroes.

Say Virtue

Learning to listen for virtue that is spoken is a tremendous observation skill that helps children grow. When they observe loving and kind words or tone of voice, they are inclined to imitate it. Perhaps they will point out something that they said, a snippet someone else said, or something they hear in a video or movie. The source doesn’t matter. Learning to notice and name the virtue gives them the power to imitate goodness. And coloring in a bingo square makes it fun.

"Super powering virtue in kids" by Cathy Gilmore (CatholicMom.com)

Photo by Nicholas Githiri (2018) via Pexels, CC0 Public Domain

Do Virtue

Teaching children to name and acknowledge virtuous acts that they do themselves and that others do around them is a powerful form of intentional parenting. Virtue in action is the source of increasingly happy family life. Sometimes something as simple as coloring in a bingo square can focus the family tone in a positive direction.

An extra fun feature of VIRTUE POWERS BINGO turns children’s tattling inside-out. Children are rewarded for tattling … on someone else for being GOOD! Everyone wants a Virtue Hero tattletale in their family. The fun multiplies because if siblings are playing, both of the children can color a square on both of their pages when one tattles on the other for a virtuous act.

BINGO!

Children play VIRTUE POWERS BINGO by noticing virtues in what they read, watch, think, say or do. Typically, a child will notice some goodness in something they saw, heard, witnessed, thought about, or did. They won’t know what virtue to name it. They describe the situation to the Virtue Leader, and together they decide which square on the BINGO page to color that fits. Sometimes the page is completed in a few days, sometimes a month or two. There is no time limit.

Once the card is colored with all six stripes of the virtue rainbow, you get to give the child some kind of pre-planned reward. The best rewards are relational. Getting some thing is OK. Getting special time with some one is the best. Give them a memory one-on-one with mom or dad. That’s when everybody wins! If you would like to reward them somehow as each row is filled in, that’s fine too. You can be as flexible as you like.

Print out your free copies of the Virtue Powers Bingo Page and give it a try with your children. When God called me to begin my virtue ministry, I did not have all the virtue terminology on the tip of my tongue. Concepts were in my head, but not in my daily lexicon. However, the more I’ve used the words, the more they have became part of the positive language I use to guide and affirm my children. I bet you will notice this blessing too.

There is actually a lot of research behind the way that the VIRTUE POWERS BINGO habit groups are divided within the list of Everyday Virtues. It flows from the work of renowned Catholic Psychologist, Dr. Richard Johnson, Phd. Find out more at his Spiritual Strengths Institute.

If you try out VIRTUE POWERS BINGO with your little heroes, leave a comment below to let me know how your family enjoys it.


Copyright 2018 Cathy Gilmore

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About Author

Cathy Gilmore is an author, editor, educator and Virtue Works Media Ministry founder. Virtue Works Media is pioneering an entirely new way to look at both print and visual media through the lens of virtue. Follow Cathy on twitter @PowerofParable for daily movie and book recommendations and inspiring quotes. Follow Cathy’s "Virtue Ink blog for the latest information as this ministry emerges.

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