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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET 6 CHAPTER 1 and often imitate the behaviors. Picture fifteen-month-old Tamika watching her mom gently helping her aging Granny settle into a chair. Tamika then goes up and pats Granny on the knee. She is clearly imitating a gesture she saw her mom previously perform to comfort Granny. Or imagine eighteen-month-old Jacob watching his caregiver comfort baby Gina after her parent leaves. Jacob then goes to crying Gina and hands her a toy to play with, imitating a comforting gesture he has witnessed or experienced. Although one’s character is more fundamental than simply one’s behaviors, there is great value in simply teaching and expecting the behaviors that exem- plify good character, even when children are too young to truly comprehend explanations of or rationale for the behaviors. In fact, there can be a synergistic relationship between practicing actions associated with positive character and gradual development of the associated character trait. For example, when parents expect children to say thank you upon receiving a gift, children may not yet truly understand gratitude but are practicing the behavior. Be Sensitive to Developmental Stages When supporting the development of good character, it is important for parents and caregivers to be attuned to the normal and appropriate developmental stages through which children pass. Such sensitivity can help adults convey character messages in developmentally appropriate ways. It can also assuage concerns about a child’s “bad” or challenging behaviors that may in fact be perfectly normal for their developmental stage and not at all reflective of poor character. For example, little Becky’s instinct to accuse her baby brother of her wrongdoing in the earlier story was a natural outcome of her two-year-old inability to process the major emotional upheaval that occurs when a new baby arrives. Think about toddlers who routinely grab toys from other children. In the vast majority of cases, this behavior doesn’t indicate poor character; rather, it is a normal developmental stage in which sharing is challenging. Toddlers naturally focus on their own needs and wants at the exclusion of others. While we often talk about children’s development as if it can be separated into parts, such as social-emotional, physical, language, or cognitive, the fact is that children’s development is a total package. Character development is interdepen- dent with all other areas of development. Consequently, any effort to “teach” or support character development should be appropriately matched with develop- mental expectations. In doing so, the character lessons can contribute to building important foundations for learning. For example, we know that young children COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL