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It's that 'modeling behavior' kids notice

Last Thursday and Friday, Aug. 16 and 17, the River Falls School District sponsored a Character Education Conference to share the character education program that it introduced during the 2011-12 school year.

The curriculum consisted of nine traits that students learned: Courage, citizenship, compassion, cooperation, perseverance, positive attitude, respect, responsibility and honesty.

During the two-day conference educators, parents and coached were invited to the high sSchool to hear seminars presented on numerous topics such as: "Combining Character, Community and Fun!," "Student Voice to Improve School Climate," Laying the Foundation for Character Education," and "Putting Character in Action."

Keynote speaker, Hal Urban, author and former teacher, spoke to educators about "Lesson from the Classroom: 20 Things Good Teachers Do."

Friday afternoon Urban held a session for parents based on a chapter from his best-selling book "Positive Words, Powerful Results."

As a public school teacher for 36 years and the single father of three boys, Urban spoke to the audience about the three keys to good families: Modeling, time and talk.

Urban encouraged parents to be aware of the ways they do things and say things because children learn through modeling behavior, may it be good or bad.

He also urged parents to spend quality time with their children, and for parents to examine the way in which kids are spoken to.

Children of all ages know the rhyme, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Urban suggests a different version: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will break my heart."

Urban asked that one think through the words they are using and ask themselves these questions: "Are the words toxic?" or "Are the words nourishing?"

When speaking there are three things that influence your communication, according to Urban, 1) the words you use, 2) the tone of your voice, and 3) your body language.

"It's not just what you say," said Urban, "it's how you say it."

As a guide to parents, Urban offered ten suggestions:

    1. Model the language you want children to use

    2. Read to and with your children

    3. Have meaningful conversations

    4. Ask good questions

    5. Celebrate life at the dinner table

    6. Catch your kids doing something right

    7. Correct gently

    8. Use and teach the 'magic words'

    9. Write a family motto about words in the home

    10. Have family meetings regularly.

For more information about Urban or any of Urban's books visit his website at

Urban's new book, available on his website, will be available in September.

Jillian Dexheimer

Jillian Dexheimer has been a copy editor and reporter for the River Falls Journal since 2011. She previously worked for the River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. Dexheimer holds a sociology degree from UW-River Falls.