Change of Heart

I’m a big proponent of labeling behaviors. In my last post, I wrote about the value of happiness. So I wanted to follow up with what I see as the next step: coaching children to find happiness by spreading happiness. Of course, along the way, they simultaneously learn the effects of their actions and words on the well-being of others – as well as on themselves.

“Have You Filled a Bucket Today: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids” by Carol McCloud is a perfect way to communicate that words hurt, that bullying behavior is not okay, and that by choosing our words carefully, we can change the future of this country.
Rereading this book made me think of the big, galvanizing push right now in America for “change.” Clearly, that vision provides the cascading emotion of hope, which in turn promotes happiness.

The Teacher of the Month Award that is sponsored by the Denver NBC affiliate is highlighting Luann Pavlu in January, and referring to her as a “laughing labor of love.” She is a special education teacher who has a contagious laugh and a simple goal for her students: ensuring that their dreams come true. She helps her students, who have severe special needs, fill their own buckets each day. And she does it by spreading happiness in her classroom.

Think about it. What is the overarching emotion of contentedness? Do you know the expression, “You’re only as happy as your least happy child?” I see it all the time at camp: kids simply are happy — because they are held accountable to acts and words of caring to others in their camp community , they are encouraged to find the pure joy in discovering new talents and skills, and they are unfettered by tethering concerns such as grades and performance. They come home, either at the end of the day, the session, or the summer, and distribute their happiness among the family! Is it any wonder that children and parents alike commonly say that they can’t wait for next summer?

How do you label happiness, besides reading this story of bucket-filling, which provides a very effective metaphor to young children for understanding the effects of kindness upon others? You can describe the positive behavior: “You just phoned Grandma (without being prompted!) and talked to her about your day in school, which made her laugh. You were showing kindness. That must make you feel very happy.”

You can also model happiness! If you need inspiration, check out this abridged version (from the Oprah Winfrey Show) of Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture”: The Carnegie Melon professor who died of pancreatic cancer last summer titled his talk, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” In the face of certain imminent death, this role model delivered a stirring and motivating address that was initially written for college students but found its way into the hearts of people of all ages. Randy Pausch clearly lived a life of happiness, in which he consciously was able to recognize for himself that he met his childhood goals – not each was exactly as he had envisioned, but they were close enough to satisfy that he had met his own lifetime goals.

Tuck-in Tips

  • What do you think you might fill a bucket with?
  • Name someone you know who is happy and who makes you feel happy.
  • Have you ever seen someone making someone else feel bad? Did you try to stop it?
  • Describe and label behaviors that relate to happiness; point out traits of people you feel could be role models for happiness and kindness.