Last month in Atlanta, Ms. Antoinette Tuff, a school clerk at the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, talked down a 20-year-old man who walked in brandishing an AK-47 rifle with the intent of taking his own life and the lives of others at the school.
Ms. Tuff treated this potential killer with kindness and respect and was able to help him walk away from his death wish. As a result of Ms. Tuff’s wisdom and actions, the man left with police, and no one was harmed.
What allowed this seemingly very typical woman to act so bravely that she successfully talked a man with a rifle out of killing people?
Most parents would like to instill heroic-like qualities in their children. Do parents know how to do this? Can these qualities even be taught? The social psychology research indicates that character traits that bring heroism to the forefront in people are formed by factors beyond temperament. People are not born heroes; they are made that way. Early in life is a good time to begin shaping a child’s behaviors to instill character traits associated with heroism.
Here are some of the well researched characteristics of heroes and some tips to help parents instill these qualities in their own children:
Heroes think positive thoughts when they take risks. “I will be successful” is their thought process at the moment of action. Parents can instill positive thinking by training children to think positively when doubts emerge. For example, a child may say, “I’ll never make the team; it’s just too big of a leap.” The parent response is, “I know it feels that way, and let’s restate your concern by saying this instead — ‘Making the team may be difficult, and I am going for it anyway and giving it my all.’” Going through this process repeatedly trains a child’s brain to think positively, rather than succumb to doubt when challenged.