Star of the show: The Wise Owl (prefrontal cortex)
3 character strengths: Perspective, Self-Regulation and Perseverance.
Last year we received an email from a primary school in Sydney’s inner west
“Help! How can we support students who miss out on a leadership role in year 6?”
Regardless of age we are all familiar with the uncomfortable feeling of missing out on something. Whether that be making the sports team or music group, winning an award you had hoped for, getting the job you longed for.
As the lyrics in the latest Grow Your Mind song “Ouch” say:
“Ouch that hurts, but not like a sting, it’s an inside ouchy hurty kind of thing.”
And it does hurt. This week’s song and corresponding podcast episode is not about pretending anything other than that. Despite the strong hurt that can be caused from missing out, it is still very important that kids and adults remember there is a choice in how we react.
As Victor Frankl, Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, author, and Holocaust survivor so famously said:
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
And to make a good choice we are calling on the Wise Owl, our prefrontal cortex to be this week’s star of the show. It is after all the master of higher order thinking and making great choices.
And the 11 year old hosts really need help with making choices that are helpful not harmful this episode. One of the lead characters is facing the hurt of not being picked to be school captain. Instead of congratulating his friend he is on a mission to bring her down verbally. The Wise Owl is there to remind the kid and listeners why they are so helpful this episode:
“I can help you make the most helpful decision at times when you mess up, miss out or lose. Which my friend, we all do. And how do I know this?
Well, because you’re NOT a robot, you’re a human. And that means you feel and experience a range of emotions and situations. I remind you that you’re allowed to feel whatever you want to feel but you have a choice in how you react. And by the way, as a human, you will also fail sometimes. But here’s a spoiler, failing is actually a good thing! More on that later.”
The Wise Owl shares a story of 2 friends going for the same part in a musical. One of them gets it, the other misses out. What happens next?! Listen to find out! And yes there are floods occuring right now, people have lost homes and businesses. Further afield war is raging in Ukraine. Is missing out on a part in the play or being school captain such a big deal?
A reminder to us all out there: perspective is only a function of experience. We cannot expect primary school aged children to put their problems, which are real and big for them, into a box labeled: not that big of a deal, get over it.
Belittling feelings is dangerous and unhelpful. We CAN remind them that setbacks, sadness, stuff ups are a part of life. We CAN remind them that humans are wired for struggle, but we don’t handle tough times well on our own. We need good people around us. It’s why we created the Guess Who character strength project, so we could remind kids that humans have overcome huge challenges and have gone on to not only live, but to give back and to flourish. An example of on of our Guess Who characters is the sensational Sophie Delezio.
Playdough portrait of Sophie Delezio
Sophie was 2 years old and asleep at her daycare in 2003 when a car crashed through the window, causing herself and another little girl to be trapped under the burning vehicle. Sophie suffered burns to 85% of her body, lost both of her feet, one hand, and her right ear. Sophie went on to spend 6 months in Westmead Children’s Hospital. Two years later, on 5 May 2006, Sophie was again badly injured in a road accident. While being pushed across a crossing by her nanny in a wheelchair (her service dog Tara by her side) she was hit by a car and thrown 18 metres. Sophie suffered a heart attack, a broken jaw, a broken shoulder, bruising to her head, numerous rib fractures and a tear to her left lung.
Despite these huge traumas Sophie is renowned for being joyful, for loving her friends and family hugely, for feeling thankful for what she does have as opposed to focusing on what she does not. As Sophie says:
“Everything is a choice. You can choose not to see the positive in things. You can choose to just focus on the negatives and wallow in pity. Everyone is allowed to grieve but you also need to look at the beauty in the world.”
When we share Sophie’s story we are clear to point out to kids that Sophie was able to overcome her traumas with the love and support of her family. She was not positive all of the time. However, Sophie has always harnessed her innate character strength of gratitude to participate fully in life. Again the point is not to belittle a child or an adult’s sense of their problem, instead it is to inspire them that humans are capable of bouncing back with enough love and support around them.
The student podcast journals again offer an opportunity to further deepen the learning and messaging of each episode. They can complete activities on dealing with disappointment, they can select strategies that might help them positively move on from a hurt and they are asked to reflect on the limitations and strengths of a saying such as “Blessing in disguise”.
The three character strengths spotlighted in this week’s episode are: perspective, self-regulation and perseverance. Perspective is needed so that the hosts can try and match their reaction with the severity of the problem. Self-regulation is called on to help the characters in the episode pause before they react in an unhelpful way. And perseverance is the final strength used for the character who misses out but plans to try again. We love that this season of the podcast really showcases how different character strengths can be used to overcome adversity. Again we are hoping that a sound of knowledge of strengths combined with strategies that kids can use to help them in tricky moments, might help kids to feel resilient.
There is a call to action to choose celebrating other people’s success rather than cutting them down. A work in progress for all of us no doubt! But the operative word here is: choice. As psychologist and thought leader Adam Grant says:
“Takers envy the success of others. Givers enjoy the success of others.
Takers claim credit and avoid blame. Givers share credit and take blame.
Takers see kindness as weakness. Givers see kindness as strength.”
Listen to the song and episode wherever you listen to things. We are proud of it and proud of the brilliant kids who host it. Our hope is that we normalise what would otherwise potentially cause shame. We will all fail. We will all miss out. And as those fantastic kids say, rock a bit of Anna from Frozen 2 and “…do the next right thing.”