The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Opinion

July 3, 2013

Bill Stanczykiewicz: Lessons from Little League shape civil behavior

(Continued)

For example, Fine describes how establishing an expectation around pregame batting practice created civil behavior among the players. “One team decided that players would take batting practice in the order that they arrived at the field. Their decision encouraged people to be prompt. The routine also minimized disputes about the batting practice order.”

Small group influence can be either positive or negative. On one team, players discouraged each other from cursing. On another team, cursing among the players was accepted. “How morality is tied to behavior can differ substantially.”

Fine notes that just as the batting practice rule endorsed by the adult manager elicited positive behaviors, the cursing kids also took their cues from adults: “The adults, while not encouraging such comments, did not outlaw them, and they persisted throughout the season.”

Fine concludes, “Groups socialize individuals to communal standards. Group members are easily able to observe the actions of others. Because groups matter to members and shape their identity, the pressures of group life often have great consequences in channeling behavior.”

In “Hardwired to Connect,” the National Commission on Children At-Risk agrees, explaining how civil behavior in children and youth is developed by “authoritative communities” which “model and pass on at least part of what it means to be a good person and to live a good life.”

The commission – consisting of medical experts, Ivy League researchers and national youth development leaders from the YMCA and Search Institute – asserts that the modeling of civil behavior relies on nonspecialists. Instead of celebrities or civic leaders, authoritative communities depend on parents, extended family, neighbors and community members. These caring adults exemplify and set clear rules and expectations, celebrate when these standards are met and immediately offer clear, even-tempered correction when they are not.

The best communication occurs when adults model the civil behavior they want young people to emulate, and members of the authoritative community realize that child development takes a long time.

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