What is the circle of courage?

The Circle of Courage is a model of child care, education and behavior based on four basic principles of belonging, generosity, independence and mastery. It is believed that if these four core ideals are present, children will be better able to learn and develop skills to treat other people with kindness and respect. This theory of education was developed by Dr. Steve Van Bockern, Dr. Martin Brokenleg, and Dr. Larry Brendtro, and draws heavily on Native American philosophies for raising happy, well-adjusted children. Today, the Circle of Courage model is also used in many classrooms, particularly to work with and empower troubled or at-risk youth.

In the graphic representation of the Circle of Courage, it is drawn as a simple circle divided into four quadrants. Each quadrant represents one of the core qualities mentioned above; belonging, generosity, independence and domain. The circle represents the fact that all people are interconnected, and that it is necessary for individuals and communities to possess these four qualities, not just one or the other. When groups of people can nurture these qualities in people, they are much more likely to succeed and go on to master additional positive life skills.

There are various theories as to why these four aspects of the Circle of Courage are the most important for success. People who feel a sense of belonging are said to be more likely to feel safe and secure, and to gain the ability to cultivate positive relationships with other people. They are less likely to be angry or aggressive. The next quality, generosity, helps children feel good about themselves and recognizes the importance of helping others; It also helps develop positive and supportive relationships.

Mastery of skills and tasks helps create a feeling of competence and higher self-esteem, and also encourages children to continue learning and mastering new skills. The spirit of competition is not encouraged, but helping others and mastering skills for an individual's personal benefit. Independence, then, encourages people to take responsibility for their actions and show respect for other people. They are also confident in themselves and their beliefs, and are less likely to attack other people if they feel challenged or threatened in any way. For these reasons and others, working to cultivate these qualities found in the Circle of Courage in students of any age is a great way to improve their entire lives, not just their lives as students.

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