How character strengths align with the EYLF

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  Published on Tuesday, 06 April 2021

How character strengths align with the EYLF

Library Home  >  Health, Wellbeing & NutritionGovernment Policy & Quality Standards
  Published on Tuesday, 06 April 2021

This article on positive psychology was written for CareforKids.com.au by psychologist Dr Nicole Nossiter, a former primary school teacher and the founder of Growing Strong Minds.

Did you know that positive psychology can provide you with a superpower that aligns with the EYLF?

Imagine a tool that encourages children to build relationships and ‘belong.’ A tool that focuses children on the present moment so as they can ‘be’ and a tool that maximises children’s participation in society so they may ‘become.’

This tool is borne out of the rigour of positive psychology – the scientific study of how we function at our best. And what is it you may be wondering? It is none other than amazing… character strengths!

What tool can help children belong, be and become?

Character strengths are described as the distinctive qualities that are the best in us. They are what is important to us, what we value. They help us to feel good and do good in the community and are considered the pathways to wellbeing.

When we are referring to character strengths, we are referencing a specific set of scientifically validated strengths. - the VIA Classification of Character Strengths and Virtues (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). 

These strengths were researched by over 55 scientists for more than three years. The research concluded that there are 24 strengths that are universally valued.

Educators can use character strengths in a number of important ways. They can:

  • Share with children strengths they have identified in them – “That was kind of you to help Isla pick up the pencils.”
  • Teach children to identify character strengths in themselves and others. “When have you been brave like the owl in the story?” “Who else do you know that is brave?”
  • Nurture emerging strengths in children – “How could you use your perseverance strength to finish that?”
  • Utilise their own strengths to build their own wellbeing and be authentic role models – “Today I’m using my gratitude strength – that is, I’m going to look for things to be thankful for and say thanks. Maybe you would like to try this too.”
  • Reflect on their own strength use, allowing them the opportunity to consider if they over or under use a strength
  • Acknowledge children’s achievements – “I’m impressed that you tried something new, that uses your bravery strength.”
  • Guide children’s behaviour. Once they are calm, older children can be shown the character strengths and asked – “What strength would help you next time?’
  • Work in partnership with families, by adopting a shared strength language
  • Foster high expectations, by supporting children to develop their strengths

Character strengths and EYLF outcomes

Each of the five learning outcomes in the EYLF can be supported with character strengths.

Outcome 1: Children have a strong sense of identity

Character strengths represent what is unique about each of us. Some of us will be strong in kindness others creativity or humour. Social Intelligence has been observed in children as young as 2-3 years of age. When educators spot an emerging strength in children it helps them to feel understood and supported. It builds their confidence and self-identity.

When children start to adopt the strength language and identify strengths in themselves and others it enhances their sense of agency, and care and respect towards others.

Outcome 2: Children are connected with and contribute to their world

Character strengths are what children value in the world. When they learn to use these strengths it enhances their sense of meaning and connection to others. When children spot strengths in others it increases their sense of respect for diversity.

Outcome 3: Children have a strong sense of wellbeing

When children use their strengths they are energised. This builds positive emotions which broadens their awareness and creativity. It allows them to see more similarities amongst peers than differences and collaborate. This enhances relationships, further developing their wellbeing. Repeated experiences of strength use positive emotions and positive relationships builds resilience in children.

Character strengths require mindfulness. We cannot notice our own strength use and that of others unless we are grounded in the present. When educators and children learn to strength spot they are practising mindfulness. This present awareness calms a busy mind. It also allows for deeper connections amongst children, colleagues and parents and opportunities to savour the good.

Outcome 4: Children are confident and involved learners

Spotting strengths in children builds confidence. It also encourages repeated use of these strengths - reminding children of their inner resources. Children can then choose which strength to use for which situation, allowing them to transfer and adapt what they have learned from one context to another.

Furthermore, when children spot strengths in peers it builds their connections with others.

Outcome 5: Children are effective communicators

Developing a strength vocabulary builds children’s wellbeing literacy. It gives them a rich language to describe their feelings and needs. The more they can articulate this the better they understand themselves and the better educators are able to support them.

In light of all the benefits of these superpowers, consider how a strength-based approach could support the children, families and educators in your setting to not only meet the outcomes and principals of the EYLF but also to thrive.

For more information about character strengths visit www.growingstrongminds.com or  www.viacharacter.org.

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Tuesday, 06 April 2021



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