Character Development

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5 Ways to Build Integrity

Each month, Stepping Stone School educators implement our Kindness & Empathy curriculum which provides activities with the purpose of teaching character development as a part of our Platinum Learning for Life™ curriculum. During the month of October, our activities are focused on the character trait of integrity.  Integrity is following through with what you say you will do, doing what is morally right no matter who is watching and demonstrating consistency in both your words and actions. The following are ideas to support teaching this important skill at home: Establish ...

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5 Easy Ways to Encourage Cooperation!

Each center in the classroom was occupied and there were children sitting at tables working on various activities. “Five-minutes to clean-up!” I told each child in my prekindergarten class. Over the several days leading up to this moment, we focused on working together to clean up the classroom. Today was a test… Could we work together to get the classroom cleaned before the timer rang? The moment of truth was finally here – it was clean up time! With a gentle reminder about our goal to beat the timer, I told the children it was time to get started. Each child not only clean...

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Five Tips for Teaching Your Children about Diversity

  As parents, it is our job to help our children build positive identities and a respect for differences. Diversity should be a part of a child’s everyday life.  We all want our children to grow up in a world free of bias and discrimination. We want them to feel loved, included and never to experience the pain of rejection and exclusion. Discrimination can hurt, leaving scars that can last a lifetime, affecting our children’s goals, ambitions, life choices and self-worth.  Children need role models who are open and accepting of differences. Parents play one of the most i...

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The Necessity of Beauty

Four-year-old, Jamie stood motionless in front of a flower.  Moving closer, I noticed a small white butterfly perched on the petal of a purple flower. Jamie reverently whispered, “See the dot on its wings, it has the same on both!” Going on he said, “It’s so quiet.  I like it.” Throughout the rest of the day, Jamie talked about the butterfly.  He thought about which flowers it may like best, where it may fly to next, he even wondered if he stood really still whether or not it may think him a flower. Jamie paused in the presence of a beautiful insect perched on a beautiful...

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How to Help Your Child "Connect the Dots" to Develop Ownership Skills

My four-year-old enjoys connect-the-dot puzzles. She loves revealing the hidden shape after connecting each letter or number in sequential order. In life, helping children “connect the dots” or link the cause and effect between actions and the results of those actions enables children to see the relationship between their choices and the consequences of their behavior. As a part of our Character and Empathy™ curriculum, Stepping Stone School teachers will teach children about what it means to take Ownership for their actions and behaviors. Children will participate in a variety...

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How Gardening Benefits Children

While many families are at home together this Spring, this is the perfect time to start a garden or revamp one you may already have. Children are curious, like to learn by doing and love to play in the dirt. Working in a garden, a child can experience the satisfaction that comes from caring for something over time, while observing the cycle of life first hand. Gardening gives children a chance to learn an important life skill, one that is often overlooked in standard school curriculums. Gardening is also a great way to teach environmental awareness by exploring the workings of nature. ...

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Supporting Families and Learning At Home

  Stepping Stone School Supporting Families & Learning at Home At Stepping Stone School, our mission is to offer not only exceptional nurturing and education for our students, but also extraordinary support and care for all parents and families! Many families are finding new and creative ways to engage and educate their children while at home! We compiled a list of fun and educational activities and resources for you to use with your family!   Writing and Literacy Readiness Blueberries for Sal Read Aloud Blueberries for Sal – ...

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4 Ways to Model Respect

In preparation for this month’s Character and Empathy™ Curriculum focus, I asked my four-year-old about respect.  She pondered for several moments and then provided an exasperated reply, “I don’t know; what is it?” I found myself challenged to come up with the words to describe this character trait and fell back on examples of how we have seen respect displayed through the actions of others. Respect is one character trait you may easily recognize when you see it and just as easily identify when it is absent. Partnering with you to encourage this valuable character trait, ...

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Five Ways to Develop Empathy in your Children

The definition of empathy is the ability to identify with or understand the perspective of another and share their emotional state. Empathy involves putting yourself in the place of another. It is dependent upon a person’s ability to feel their own feelings and be able to identify them.   Dr. Michele Borba, the author of the book, Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, believes our world to be in an empathy crisis. She found that today’s teens are 40% less empathetic than they were 30 years ago. Lack of empathy can hurt your child’s academic perfor...

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Developing Self-Regulation Skills with Conscious Guidance

This past year, we integrated Dr. Becky Bailey‘s comprehensive self-regulation program, Conscious Discipline into our Platinum Learning for Life Curriculum™ (identified as “Conscious Guidance” on our learning plans).  During the month of January, we will focus on the practice of self-regulation combining the goals of Conscious Discipline and our Communities of Character™ curriculum.  Children will learn self-regulation skills to manage their emotions, overcome stress, and persist through challenges as they read age-appropriate books and participate in hands-on activities and gam...

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Mr. Rogers and His Spirit of Compassion

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I joined the crowd of moviegoers to watch A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood starring Tom Hanks. Hanks plays the role of the beloved children’s show host Mr. Rogers. Throughout the movie, each person who interacts with Mr. Rogers’ character is changed for the better because of his compassionate and caring attitude which radiates in all his interactions. Prompted by the movie, I continued to read about Fred Rogers long after the movie credits had run. In life, Rogers demonstrated compassion to children and adults of differing abilities - each life touched...

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Learning Gratitude with Thanksgiving Activities

Thanksgiving is the time of year when we express gratitude and give thanks for the blessings in our lives. Gratitude is a fundamental component of both our overall happiness and our relationships with loved ones. Expressing gratitude is just as important for children as it is for adults. While gratitude can be a difficult trait for children to grasp, children learn best by doing. Here are some activities that your child can participate in during this Thanksgiving holiday: Thankful Tree. This is a wonderful craft that can be used throughout the month of November for the whole family ...

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How to Teach Perseverance

My oldest son scraped at the interior of the giant pumpkin he was preparing this past month. “This is hard!” he exclaimed. I smiled, “You’re sticking with it though, that means you’re developing perseverance!” After some time, he came to me, hands covered in pumpkin, “I’m finished!” He beamed as he carried his pumpkin onto our front porch. There are many opportunities throughout the day for children to persevere.  It is in the struggle and challenges of life that perseverance develops. At Stepping Stone School, we recognize the value of perseverance and ...

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Encouraging Friendly Relationships

In the fast-paced culture that we live in today, children seem to have busier schedules than in past generations. As a parent, you may be shuffling them from one activity to the next, or one sports practice to another. The social opportunities for your child can vary with each activity and some children have an easy time developing friendly relationships with their peers, while others may struggle. Parents play a significant role in helping their young child develop a healthy social life so that friendships are more likely to form. Here are some ways you can encourage your child to make ...

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Building Integrity

Each month, Stepping Stone School educators implement our Communities of Character™ curriculum which provides activities with the purpose of teaching character development as a part of our Platinum Learning for Life™curriculum. During the month of October, our activities are focused on the character trait of integrity.  Integrity is described as consistency in both words and actions while following a strong moral compass. Dr. Michele Borba, an educational psychologist and authority on child development, gives thought to integrity and raising children: Parents with clearly iden...

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Cooperation Counts!

In eager anticipation, children recently began a new school year.  I heard child wonderings about new friends and old friends, new classrooms and new teachers, and what they will learn.  At the beginning of the year, it is the goal of teachers to take the group of individuals assigned to their classroom and form a cohesive group of learners. Through cooperation, children learn aspects which make this transition into a group of learners possible. By focusing on aspects of cooperation like sharing, taking turns, and working together, the teachers at Stepping Stone School are prepared ...

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Helping Young Children Understand Fairness

A teacher invited the children to sit down for circle time.  Holding up a box of band-aids, she asked the children to pretend with her as they began a discussion on fairness.  Turning to the closest child in the circle, she asked him to show her where he had a pretend boo-boo.  He pointed to his hand. The teacher placed a band-aid on the child’s hand and continued to the next child.  “And where is your boo-boo?” the teacher asked. “On my elbow,” the next child said. The teacher placed a band-aid on the child’s hand and went to the next child asking the same question...

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How to Instill Responsibility and Independence in Your Child

Over the last several weeks, I have been working with my children to instill a sense of responsibility and independence in preparation for the birth of their baby sister.  We have focused on establishing morning routines to help us get out the door each day. This morning, my three-year-old came to get me, “Come and see, come and see!” Not sure what to expect, I walked somewhat hurriedly to the door of her bedroom. “Look!” she stated pointing to her bed.  I saw her wrinkled blanket draped over her bed. “I made my bed all by myself!” I smiled giving her a huge hug...

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5 Ways to Develop Empathy

  This month at Stepping Stone School, we are focusing on the development of Empathy as a part of our Communities of Character™ curriculum.  Empathy is a key aspect of emotional intelligence through which individuals imagine what another is experiencing as if feeling it themselves. Empathy is a complex skill to develop.  First, a child must be able to recognize others have different thoughts and feelings than he has.  Secondly, he must imagine himself in a similar situation to determine a possible solution to the problem the other child is experiencing.    The follo...

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Supporting the Understanding and Development of Ownership

Fred Rogers, the host of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, testified before the Senate in 1969 discussing the need for the continued support of public broadcasting. Towards the end of his testimony, Rogers quotes the words to his song, What Do You Do with the Mad that You Feel? His statements before the Senate describing the need for educational and developmentally appropriate programming in which children can learn that feelings are mentionable and manageable earned Public Broadcasting $20,000,000 in funds for continued work. The last stanza of Rogers’ song describes the ability to control...

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Teaching Children to be Trustworthy

This month, Stepping Stone School will focus on the character development trait of trustworthiness.  A trustworthy person is honest, follows the rules, keeps a promise, is not unkind, and does not take things that do not belong to him.  Developing an attitude of trust, being trustworthy, and building trust with one another takes time, but through responsive caregiving, children learn in a manner which supports the development of trust. According to developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, children begin learning trust in infancy.   Erikson developed a theory of psychosocial developme...

Advanced Pre-K
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Pre-Kindergarten
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Demonstrating Respect

My school-age children came home with report cards not that long ago and I noticed a section describing respectful attitudes towards school property and treatment of others.  The idea of grading one’s development of this character trait seems a bit strange to me, but as I read further their report cards described respect as PR for Progressing or CD for Consistently Demonstrates. I like the idea of progressing or consistently demonstrating respect.  Children learn and often relearn the meaning of respect.  This learning begins in the early years and builds throughout a child’s life...

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Kindness Makes an Impact

In anticipation of accepting a new child into our classroom, I had my prekindergarten children create a welcome card.  They spent quite some time writing their names, thinking about the colors they thought this child may like and drawing pictures for her. Finally, the day had arrived, this child walked into our classroom holding tightly to her mother’s hand. I welcomed her in and another child excitedly brought over the card we had made.  Her mother smiled and told her child, “See, I told you they would be nice!” The next day, our new friend bounded into the classroom ready to ...

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Developing Self-Regulation Skills

Self-regulation, the ability to manage one’s own emotions and to empathize with others, is a leading predictor in the future academic success of a child.  When children can self-regulate, they recognize when they are getting frustrated and can utilize strategies to help them calm down before it gets out of control. When teaching self-regulation, we begin by teaching children how to manage their emotions and providing them with strategies to use to overcome stress and persist in challenging situations.   Label and recognize feelings. From infancy, parents and teachers ...

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Family Traditions

The winter holiday season is often accompanied by specific activities we participate in each year like visiting family, giving gifts, feasting, lighting candles, and celebrating. These traditions often go back generations in one form or another.  Research demonstrates that family traditions are valuable for building strong family relationships and developing a sense of belonging between family members. When children are invited to participate in family traditions by talking about the reasons behind these special activities, the traditions become more meaningful often providing a se...

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Living a Compassionate Life

The holiday season often causes us to think of others.  What is it that a loved one needs physically or emotionally during this time of year? We ask ourselves questions like, “What can I do to make another person feel the joy of the season?”  Compassion involves not only recognizing the needs of others but also following through in action to meet those needs. Over this month, the children at Stepping Stone School will have opportunities to think of others as they learn about this important character trait.  They will create gifts and cards for families and friends. Teachers ...

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Developing Integrity at Every Age

Each month, Stepping Stone School classroom teachers focus on specific activities to teach character development in an age-appropriate manner through our custom-created Communities of Character™curriculum which is part of our Platinum Learning for Life™curriculum. Our focus for the month of October is the character trait of integrity.  Integrity means following through with what you say you will do, doing what is expected of you no matter who is watching, and demonstrating consistency in both your words and actions. Experts have suggested the following to teach integrity to c...

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How to Help Your Child Learn to Cooperate

I recently came across a cooperative board game in which three or four players work together to complete a task to win the game before they run out of time.  Interested, I tried the game out with my own children and here is what I found: While playing a cooperative game versus a traditional “single winner” game There was less arguing and whining between children, More laughing and encouragement of one another, and A quicker recovery time when the group lost the game. Working together, cooperating, provides an opportunity to come together for a common goal.  Whether pl...

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How to Teach Young Children Fairness

Have you ever wondered why we enjoy sporting events where the “underdog” wins the day or hearing “rags to riches” human interest stories? Using functional MRIs, a team of researchers at Rutgers University discovered how the brain reacts to perceived fair and unfair treatment of others.  Their findings demonstrate higher levels of brain activity when one perceives fair treatment of another.  Additionally, they observed decreased activity when one perceives incidences of unfairness or inequity.  These findings suggest that our sense of fairness is not entirely based on a set of ...

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Thank you, Mister Rogers

For over 30 years, Fred Rogers entered the family rooms of preschool children across the nation to say, “It’s you I like.”  Using songs, puppets, and stories, Rogers taught children how to work through what he called, “the inner drama of childhood.” Words to songs like, What Do You Do with the Mad that You Feel? provided alternative positive behavior choices for the daily challenges children face. He spent years studying child development, adapting his speech to speak more slowly and calmly for the benefit of the children in his viewing audience.  Quietly battling social issu...

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Teaching Responsibility

In many of our Stepping Stone School prekindergarten classrooms, you will notice a classroom chore chart.  Using this list of chores, teachers encourage children to take on certain roles and responsibilities as a member of the classroom community.  Children work together to straighten the classroom, welcome guests, and line up at the door.  They are learning responsibility and the satisfaction of a job well done. A responsible person is reliable and trustworthy, completing the tasks she says she will do. Responsible people think before they act, they put forth their best effort, take...

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Teaching Children to be Caring

Ruth had just woken up from her nap and was sitting alone near her mat with her head lowered, arms crossed, and a sad expression on her face.  Three-year-old Lizzie walked over after noticing her friend was not moving to participate in the classroom activities.  Squatting down and looking closely at Ruth’s face, Lizzie gently patted Ruth on the back and gave her a soft toy. Lizzie’s acknowledgment of Ruth’s feelings caused other members of the class to ask Lizzie what was wrong with Ruth.  Following Lizzie’s lead, other children brought toys over to try to cheer Ruth up. ...

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Kindness Matters

February 17th is National Random Acts of Kindness Day, to celebrate, Stepping Stone School is teaching children about kindness through daily interactions by focusing on acting friendly, giving generously, and being considerate of others.   Acting Friendly Exchanging Pleasantries Encouraging children to smile or wave is a small act of kindness in which even our youngest children can participate.  As they get older, teaching children to use polite phrases like, “Nice to meet you” and “Have a nice day” provides kind and friendly interactions in everyday situations. Inv...

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Self-Regulation Tips for Toddlers

At Stepping Stone School, we strive to support our families through the many ups and downs of early childhood.  The toddler years are a pivotal time in the life of a child.  No longer infants, toddlers are transitioning, developing communication skills, and gaining independence.  This developmental stage is both exciting and challenging as we share in the joy of discovery, but also the frustration of toddler tantrums. Fortunately, experts provide several ideas to reduce the number of tantrums: Give Positive Attention. In a toddler’s mind, attention is attention, whether it is p...

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Teaching Ownership

In early elementary school, I started playing The Blame Game. My parents would confront me about a situation and I would blame someone else or something else for my choices. My dad’s solution - a song he made up and would sing with enthusiasm: “No more excuses, excuses are useless!”  Too embarrassed to stick around, I often missed Dad’s choreographed dance moves.  Through my dad’s refusal to accept excuses and his “delightful” little song, I learned to take ownership of my attitude and actions. As children grow, they often go through periods when they assume shifting b...

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What is Respect?

What is respect? According to four-year-old Julia, respect is “being nice to other people.” Pressing further, I asked “What does being nice mean?” She delightfully answered, “it means you give someone chocolate or a kiss!” As young as she is, this child recognizes that respect is the way you choose to treat another person.  “Being nice” as she puts it, is how one acts when demonstrating respect. How does one teach respect to young children? Demonstrate respectful behavior. Children often watch their caregivers looking for clues defining the expectations. If they ...

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The Art of Kindness

In this busy world we live in, it is becoming more and more vital to remember to take a moment to be kind to ourselves and to others. Kindness is more than just an idea or a thing that we can do, it is a way of living. When we think of things we want our children to grow up to be, kind is definitely on that list. An act of kindness is something that can bring joy and harmony not only to the receiver but to the giver as well. The Random Act of Kindness  movement is sweeping the nation.  Sites like https://www.randomactsofkindness.org are wonderful resources for people and communities to ge...

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Nurturing compassion in the lives of children

December Character Development: Compassion I recently observed a precious exchange between sisters, four-year-old Katie and younger sister Ellie. Katie had already made several attempts to cross a low balance beam independently and so when she failed yet again, she crumbled to the floor and began to cry out of frustration.  Eager to comfort, Ellie toddled over to where her big sister sat crying.  Little Ellie practically folded her body in half to look her sister in the eyes, reached out her chubby little hand and patted Katie on the back, then leaning over a little more, gave her big s...

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October Character Development: Integrity

All the World's a Stage I sometimes feel as if life is a performance. I put on my makeup and dress according to the role I will play that day, exchange formal lines like “Good morning, how are you?” and move from scene to scene through the business of life. Though many only see the performance on the stage, my children are in a unique position to watch my life play out both as a member of the audience and a part of the backstage crew: they see it all. The thought is both terrifying and compelling: They are learning from me at every moment of every day – understudies, of sort, t...

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September Character Development: Cooperation

Two opposing teams stand on the cusp of a pit of mud.  A single rope with a flag tied to its center snakes through the ranks as the teams face off.  Tensions mount as each individual anxiously awaits the dreaded whistle blow which will announce the start to a summer camp favorite: the Tug of War!  The goal: Work as a team, pulling as hard as you can so you all don’t end up in the pit of mud. That “work as a team” part is key.  Unfortunately, many of us land in the proverbial “mud” before we realize that working together, cooperating, is key to many of life’s successes. Tra...

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Why is it Fair…?

“Why is it fair that I have so much when other kids don’t?” kindergartener, Rachel Harris, pointedly asked. With her mother’s support and guidance, Rachel founded Let’s Help Kids, a nonprofit company which works alongside teachers and case workers to provide toys and experiences for the children of families who would otherwise not be able to afford life’s little luxuries. Over six years later, Rachel has helped over 2,000 children by providing presents for birthdays and holidays, Halloween costumes, summer camp tuition, swim lessons, and even movie tickets. It all began w...

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Responsibility. What’s that? 5 Actionable Tips to Teach Your Child How to be Responsible.

I recently spoke to an aquatics director at a large facility. The majority of her faculty is made up of young adults ages 18-24. Each year this director is surprised by the number of new applicants whose parents call to try to get them a job working in her facility. She refuses to hire those applicants. Why? Because if those individuals have not shown that they are responsible enough to find their own job, then she does not want to give them the responsibility to guard someone’s life while they are in the water. Responsibility is necessary for future success. How do parents teach th...

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Raising a Resourceful Child

“Resourcefulness, the ability to meet challenges in a variety of ways, is a by-product of creative intelligence. “As children develop resourcefulness, they learn to trust their instincts and unique abilities. They acquire a positive attitude toward problem-solving. Resourceful children mature into confident and industrious people. Just as important, they tap into the multitude of joys life has to offer.” This was the beginning of Karen Stephen’s article, “20 Ways to Encourage Children’s Resourcefulness and Creativity.” Following are her helpful suggestions for increas...

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Raising an Empathetic Child

When we empathize with children, they learn from us the following: Their feelings are valid Recognition and acceptance of emotions Ability to label feelings with appropriate words Knowledge that emotions can be expressed to others Self-awareness Self-control Understanding that feelings influence behavior Realization that relationships are based on mutual esteem and communication Dr. Becky Bailey writes in Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline, “I cannot stress enough the importance of empathy.  Empathy is not weak-kneed permissiveness, nor is it passive...

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