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Who do you respect?

Becoming emotionally intelligent requires a willingness to share your views on life and an ability to listen when others share theirs.  That’s why these short conversations are so important.  They give kids the chance to practice sharing their feelings, opinions and big ideas in a safe and structured way.  As students practice each week, their comfort will grow alongside their voice.

Last time we discussed respect.  What does it mean?  How do you know if you’re getting (or giving) it?  Now, let’s apply it to people they know and love – their friends.

Start this conversation: What do you respect most about ________?  Or, who’s someone in your class that you have a lot of respect for?

Of course, follow these with the big W:  Why?

Here’s why this question is so important.  We gravitate toward people we respect.  We try to emulate their strengths and live according to their morals.  If kids can grow up developing an awareness of the kind of people they respect and if they know why they respect those qualities, they’ll have an easier time (1) navigating future opportunities, (2) making friends with beliefs they support and (3) accepting the differences of others.

Through respecting others we choose the people we rely on as guideposts.  Let’s help kids identify those guideposts.

For younger kiddos try asking: What do you like about ______? (insert friend’s name)

Remember, the objective isn’t to influence who children respect, it’s to instill in them an awareness of their values as it applies to their relationships.

Let me know what they come up with!



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Emotions vs. Moods

In the new book I’m reading Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become author Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D. reminds readers that emotions are fleeting, temporary experiences.  This triggered me to dig deeper into how emotions are measured.  I found interesting research that explained the distinction between emotions and moods.

Emotions are discrete experiences triggered by an identifiable event which consist of three parts:

  1. A psychopysiological expression (how we react verbally/our thoughts)
  2. A biological reaction (how our body reacts)
  3. A mental state (how we process in light of our emotions)

Moods are less well defined.  They are considered a mental state which can occur without a trigger and can last an indefinite period of time.  If you’ve ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed,  you’ve experienced a “mood“.

Another difference: emotions can occur simultaneously.  Moods, on the other hand, are experienced in sequence.  Typically, we have to conclude experiencing one mood to move into another – consider those days you are just “in a funk”.

So, as educators, what can we do with this information?  First, let’s explain this to our students.  Let’s give them the appropriate vocabulary with which they can explain their experiences.  Then, let’s listen to them.

Once we can all distinguish between a mood and an emotion, we can take better care of one another.  Personally, I feel lighter knowing that emotions are temporary.  No matter how challenging, I know they will pass.

On the other hand, with an understanding of these differences, I can now communicate with my students in a way that sets their expectations.

When I explain that I am in a sad mood, they will know that this (1) has nothing to do with them and (2) might last a while.  Likewise, when they come to me with that explanation, I can tailor my approach to them to support what they are experiencing.

Imagine how these words could change student-to-student interactions!

What do you think?  Have you ever discussed with your students how you are feeling?  How did they respond?




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A sense of urgency and acceptance

If I were asked to define what success looks like for The Eight Hugs Curriculum, my answer would be to inspire a sense of urgency and acceptance.

My goal is to light the fire of urgency in the hearts of the adults who influence children’s development everyday.  This work takes a village.  Educators already know how important this work is.  I’m here to elevate their concerns and give them the tools they need to reach kids and to reach them quickly.

My second goal is to teach children about acceptance.  Truly, acceptance of ourselves and others will unlock the door to happiness.  This curriculum is about teaching children self-awareness and self-acceptance.  Brene Brown, PhD has claimed time and again that we can only extend love and appreciation to others if we are experts in offering love and acceptance to ourselves.  Acceptance is integral to happiness.

May is Mental Health awareness month.  A site for social workers is offering these pressing reminders which speak to the importance of both urgency and acceptance:

Youth-Mental-IllnessBrought to you by Social Work License Map

Mental-Illness-StigmaBrought to you by Social Work License Map

We have much important work to do my friends.  I’m honored you’re here alongside me.



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Spring break

This conversation starter can be unpacked to unearth quite a few levels.  With spring in the air and spring breaks popping up in school districts across the country, now is a good time to discuss:

How much vacation time should we have?

Be prepared for the answer we are sometimes eager to give: unlimited vacation time!

Empathize and acknowledge, then ask any or all of the various follow-ups:

  • How would you spend all of that time?
  • If time weren’t metered, do you think people would better appreciate the time they spend working/going to school?
  • What would it look like if there weren’t rules about how we spend our time (for example, the dictated length of the school day)?
  • Then a meaty one: do rules help us or hinder us?

The objective is to lead students to examine their own values regarding time.  If there were no limits, how would they spend their time?  If they weren’t required to, would they work/study?

This conversation also invites them to reflect on how they may thrive or feel boxed in by rules and guidelines.  Introspective students may begin to realize that, by following set timelines for either a vacation or the school day, they are able to be more productive than they would be if they were required to motivate themselves.  For others, they will feel the opposite.

Ultimately, these are questions all people examine and need to wrestle with in order to maximize their productivity and their success.

For younger students, this is a great way to kickstart a conversation about how they enjoy spending their time.  Do they love the outdoors?  Their books? Or time with family?

Let me know what they come up with!




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