It is paradoxical that the tragic 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting would result in a formula for choosing love. “We can teach children to choose love,” says Scarlett Lewis. Her six-year-old son, Jesse, was killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting.
Research shows that children who feel connected, are resilient, and can reciprocate love won’t want to harm each other. “Love is a universal need, the lack of which can be devastating,” says Lewis. She is Chief Movement Officer of the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement.
The Choose Love Enrichment Program emphasizes the simple, universal teachings of courage, gratitude, forgiveness, and compassion in action. This program provides children with the knowledge, attitude, and skills they need to choose love in any situation. It’s a sustainable educational solution to eliminate school shootings and bullying while improving the self-esteem of students.
The Choose Love Enrichment Program™ has recently been included in the first state-wide school safety plan. It launched in 2017 and is in schools across New Hampshire. The program is also included in the New Hampshire School Safety Preparedness Task Force 2018 Report. After collaborating with Scarlett Lewis, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu has made Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) a priority.
What the Research Reveals and Experts Say
The Choose Love Enrichment Program curriculum has the key components to promote resiliency and well-being among all children, especially those exposed to adversities, according to Shanta R. Dube, Associate Professor, School of Public Health, Georgia State University. Dube emphasizes that a rigorous evaluation of the program will determine the impact on children’s well-being.
“We know that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) contribute to emotional difficulties and multiple risk behaviors in adulthood,” says Dube. She is recognized both nationally and internationally for her research on the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.
The ACE Study focused on early life stress and substance use and abuse, and mental illness in adulthood. “Providing life skills early in the lifespan that focus on self-awareness, emotional self-management, positive social connection, and most importantly self-love can build the “muscles” needed for managing negative emotions so they are free to learn,” says Dube.
“Scarlett Lewis’ organization addresses a critical missing piece in the mental health field and education,” says Linda Olson, Ph. D., a clinical psychologist who founded the Georgia Chapter of Childhood Domestic Violence. “She has been able to use her own tragedy to help others focus on the key areas of resiliency.”
The Choose Love Formula teaches the foundational concepts and skills of social and emotional learning (SEL). Thirty years of brain research and neuroscience support these concepts. According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), SEL has been proven to increase grades, attendance, and focus while reducing aggression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other issues.
Fortunately, students aren’t the only ones who benefit from SEL. According to CASEL, schools are challenged by teacher attrition and unsafe learning environments. When educators teach SEL, they help students create safe, loving, and healthy problem-solving communities. This approach will enhance teachers’ ability to teach as well as students’ ability to learn.
Social-Emotional Literacy and Well-Being
Social-emotional literacy, training, and well-being are often the missing link. When asked about the most important skills to develop success in the classroom and life, parents rank effective communications and social-emotional skills very high on their priority lists.
Social-emotional learning (SEL) involves acquiring and consistently applying the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to:
- Make responsible decisions
- Feel and show empathy for others
- Connect and build high levels of trust
- Understand and manage one’s emotions
- Engage in mutually beneficial relationships
- Set and achieve desired dreams & goals
- Make wise financial choices
Although there are no guarantees when parenting, we increase the probability of raising kids, teens, and young adults that are functional and healthy in all aspects of life when we integrate SEL. As parents, we must be strategic as we engage, encourage, equip, and prepare our children for life. As S.M.A.R.T. Parents, we want to prepare our kids to live productive, respectful, and meaningful lives.
The problem arises when we try to define productive and meaningful lives. The quintessential question is: how do we equip our children to become industrious and healthy in all aspects of life while maintaining appropriate balance?
Purposeful and S.M.A.R.T. Parents™
S.M.A.R.T. Parents have the big picture in mind because they realize that they are their child’s first and most important teacher. Parents can plant and cultivate the competencies of social and emotional learning into their child’s life through consistent, loving, disciplined, repetitive, and practical application.
On the other hand, parents and influencers can hinder a child’s development if they choose to ignore their critical role. The competencies of social and emotional learning become second nature to a purposeful and S.M.A.R.T. Parent.
DreamSmart Academy has created the Behavioral SuperPower process to help parents survive, thrive, and integrate the simple and critical elements of social-emotional learning to prepare their children to live with purpose. It begins with the end in mind, with parents seeing their kids as productive children, teens, and young adults.
Behavioral SuperPower parents help guide their kids to become mature and interdependent adults. They view each season of their child’s life as a critical development stage. Each stage moves their child closer to fulfilling their potential. Our Behavioral SuperPower parents not only focus on academic achievement, they also know the value of social and emotional learning.
The Five Principles of S.M.A.R.T. Parents
Social-Emotional Literacy, (SEL), and Well-being: Parents that choose to integrate and practice the skills of SEL into their own lives can teach them. If your words don’t match your actions, then your children won’t hear what you’re saying. Your actions will be drowning your words.
Model: Children learn by observing the behaviors of their parents. You’ve heard the adage, “more is caught than taught.” Children see our actions and they watch and mimic what we do, say, and feel. Children observe the behavior of their parents and repeat them, whether they are positive or negative. Parents that model empathy, practice kindness, or can say, “I’m sorry, please forgive me…,” demonstrate healthy social and emotional behavior in action.
Affirm: Each child has unique gifts and abilities. S.M.A.R.T Parents seek what’s best for their child based on each child’s unique gifts and talents. Encouragement is the fuel that drives a child’s lifelong development. Be intentional to affirm them when you catch them doing something right. Remember it takes five positive comments to repudiate one negative statement.
Respectful: S.M.A.R.T. Parents teach their children that everyone has worth and dignity. People should be treated honorably, with care and courtesy. S.M.A.R.T. Parents understand their children are individuals who will eventually become adults and parents with their own children. Children first learn respect and disrespect in the home, NOT in school and or on social-media. Your kids will model your expectations and values because you are their first teacher and coach.
Time: Kids spell love: T-I-M-E. There’s no such thing as quality time with a child, there is only time invested with a child. The penny representing quality will be seen in the return on investment many years later.
Conscientious parents understand this simple math and make deposits while scheduling time to invest in their most important endeavor. The Social-Emotional Literacy and well-being of their home and family.
Joseph Cohen is the Director of Communications, DreamSmart Academy, and co-author of Write Father, Write Son: A Bond-Building Journey.