Teaching children the importance of setting and achieving long and short term goals with perseverance will guide them to make reasonable decisions and to accept and overcome challenges with a sense of control. This step is informed by research into 'Grit' and Growth Mindset.
Grit is studied in the field of educational psychology and is considered a “non-cognitive factor" important for school and life success. It is a quality people can have that helps them to persevere during obstacles and challenges. It would be useful to discuss with children when they might need to use grit. How might they be able to increase their grit? You can test yourself on the grit scale and read more about this on Angela Duckworth's website or watch her TED talk here.
Having a growth mindset means that an individual believes that their talents can be developed through hard work, practice and so on whereas those with a fixed mindset believe that they have innate talents. Carol Dweck at Stanford University has done years of research into this phenomenon: unsurprisingly, those with a growth mindset achieve more as they put their energy into learning. In order to help children develop a growth mindset it is crucial that we listen to the way they speak. Rather than "I can't do this" they should be encouraged to say "I can't do this yet". Dweck's book Mindset explores the ideas further, or you can watch her TED talk here.
The connect step supports the effective development and maintenance of relationships. For children, this means a strong connection with their family, and a clear understanding of what it means to be a good friend. It is important to discuss strategies for how they are going to address issues as they come up: I find the most effective way to prepare kids for issues on the playground or elsewhere is to discuss possible scenarios and role play them so that they have some experience with a situation.
For example, for a child who finds it hard to find people to play with at lunch, identifying who they would like to play with and why gives them a focus, and then a discussion about exactly what they are going to say helps them to feel prepared to ‘face’ lunchtime. A child who is being bullied would benefit from a conversation about what they are going to do next time something occurs - while they will definitely tell an adult, it’s worth them working out something to do in the moment so that they retain some control over the situation.
Information about and support for kids who are being bullied, or families of children who are being bullies, can be found here.
Being aware of what constitutes a good friend is also important for kids so that they can reflect on their own behaviour, and decide what type of person they want to be. Once this conversation has taken place, it’s then easy to go back over it when it’s needed, for example, “do you think you demonstrated the qualities of a good friend just now? What might you do about it if not” and so on.
Watch an interesting TED talk about the impact of social networks here.
The energise step recognises that physical and mental wellbeing are inextricably linked - that a healthy body requires both physical and mental health. Understanding the value of physical movement, healthy food and enough sleep teaches children to understand their bodies and minds as one, as opposed to separate entities.
Character strengths are the qualities that come most naturally to us. Research shows that if we utilise how character strengths in our everyday lives they can enhance health and wellbeing, improve relationships and buffer against and manage problems. You can take the VIA character strengths test here to get a list in ranked order of your key character strengths.
For children, it is useful to discuss the strengths and their virtues to refer to for behaviour management (that is for example, are you using honesty at the moment?). Not to mention they will be generally nicer people and better to be around if they use them! While the cards don't mention 24 character strengths as identified by Martin Seligman, they are worth noting and discussing given that the cards work to ensure the children are able to display these traits. Discussion of how to be a good friend relates to social intelligence, while discussion of courage pertains to bravery, and so on.
Educators have long used Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences model to understand their students and how they learn. While some people have logical-mathematical intelligence, others are visual-spatial and others are verbal-linguistic. There are eight in total, and it's important that students know where their strengths lie - not so that they ignore their limitations but so that they have the confidence that they are strong in some areas while they are working hard to improve their weak spots. Read about how to engage different types of intelligence below, or take the multiple intelligences and learning style test here.
Linguistic (word smart): Encourage them to describe what it is they're doing while cooking or doing an experiment. Talk about why things happened or what might happen if...
Logical-mathematical (maths smart): Sorting and classifying activities: comparing different songs or sounds, finding a specific number of something in a book.
Bodily-kinesthetic (body smart): Learn through movement or games - to help with counting, get them to hop while counting up in 10s, or stand up while reading a book.
Musical (music smart): Singing songs or tapping a rhythm while learning about something. Provide materials that can be used as instruments such as wooden spoons.
Spatial (visual smart): Showing, rather than telling. For example, showing a photo of a place rather than describing it, or letting them read a description themselves.
Naturalist (nature smart): Using books and photos about the natural world to explain topics. Starting your own herb garden.
Intrapersonal (self smart): Give them the chance to think about topics on their own, and to reflect upon how things make them feel.
Interpersonal (people smart): Involve them in group games and discussions. Turn learning into a group activity.
The help step is focused on the fact that helping others and being kind has been found to increase long term happiness. Research suggests that there is a ‘positive feedback loop’ between happiness and kindness, which means that one encourages the other.
It’s important that kids aren’t allowed to feel as though they are the only ones in the universe and that they can get satisfaction out of contributing to a higher cause - whether it be a random act of kindness, charity donation or taking action to help the environment.
You can introduce your kids to “Ollie’s World”, a website dedicated to teaching children about the nature of sustainability.
Finally, watch this delightful video depicting the butterfly effect of kindness.
The pause step is about stopping and reflecting on what is going on around you – it is about being mindful.
Mindfulness is getting a lot more press these days, but it doesn’t have to be something extra in your day – it can literally just be sitting still for 10 seconds and focusing on breathing.
Research shows that mindfulness benefits the brain and immune system, the quality of our relationships and our engagement with education. Read here and here for information and tips about mindfulness for children, and click here to download mindful colouring pages.
Watch the video here about the benefits of meditation.
The step is also about maintaining self control - it's about pausing, and assessing a situation before reacting. Read here about more ways to help your child develop self control.
The recognise step is about recognising positive emotions in your life, and working to ensure you have as many as possible. In fact, the ratio of positive to negative emotions should be 3:1, according to the positivity ratio. It is not reasonable to expect that people should be happy all the time, that is, not in the sense of skipping through the daisies all day. The Broad and Build Theory of positive emotions, developed by Dr Barbara Fredrickson, suggests that positive emotions broaden one's awareness and encourage novel, varied, and exploratory thoughts and actions.
Of course negative emotions have a role to play: humans have a negativity bias which means that even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (e.g. unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or social interactions; harmful/traumatic events) have a greater effect on one's psychological state and processes than do neutral or positive things. This means that we need to pay even more attention to increasing the positive emotions we experience. By tracking the good things each day, we can experience the benefits to our health and wellbeing that positive emotions bring. You can read more about it here at Barbara Fredrickson’s website, or see her talk here.
Gratitude is an excellent way to start positively tracking our days. Asking for three things that went well in day is an easier way of working out what it is we appreciate. Watch a video about gratitude here, and read about ways to raise a grateful child here.