Positive education is a relatively new approach to education that is being used to increase the overall happiness and well-being of students today.
But what is positive education, exactly? And how can you apply it in your own home? And, quite frankly, why does it matter?
What is Positive Education?
According to the World Government Summit, “Positive Education is an approach to education that blends academic learning with character & well-being. Preparing students with life skills such as grit, optimism, resilience, growth mindset, engagement, and mindfulness amongst others.”
American psychologist Martin Seligman’s research into happiness allowed him to identify five elements that are common to people reporting high levels of happiness and well-being in their life, which he calls the PERMA model.
PERMA stands for:
- Positive Emotion
This video gives a very brief introduction to Positive Education and the role it can have on a student’s well-being.
Positive Education Increases Likelihood of Success
In his book, How Children Succeed, Paul Rough goes through a series of case studies that make one thing very clear: success isn’t determined by how much information our kids learn and retain.
“In the past decade, and especially in the past few years, a disparate congregation of economists, educators, psychologists, and neuroscientists have begun to produce evidence that calls into question many of the assumptions behind the cognitive hypothesis. What matters most in a child’s development, they say, is not how much information we can stuff into her brain in the first few years. What matters, instead, is whether we are able to help her develop a very different set of qualities, a list that includes persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit, and self-confidence.”
Basically, the traits we refer to as “character.”
Research actually shows that these character skills are malleable, or skill-like, and that they can actually be improved upon with teaching and practice.
Naturally we, as parents, want our kids to remain curious, to be resilient, persistent and have grit.
And these are all character traits that are promoted through positive education.
Positive Education Increases Kids’ Overall Happiness
One of the core tenets of this approach to education is that it’s actually teaching kids how to create their own happiness.
Research shows, in fact, that 40% of happiness is a direct result of intentional practices.
By bringing the positive education techniques into the classroom and into the home, an increase in the happiness of the student is unavoidable. And while increasing the happiness and well-being of your kids is certainly motivation enough, this increase in happiness will also help to improve their attention and creativity both in and out of school.
Positive Education Reduces Stress, Depression and Burnout
Both kids and teachers alike, today, are struggling with chronic stress and depression.
In fact, research reveals that one in five students will experience major depression before graduation from high school.
Positive education and its stress management techniques are the answer to this growing epidemic, though. While traditional education models are focused purely on academics, positive education focuses also on helping kids (and teachers) succeed and find happiness in themselves.
And who doesn’t want that for their kids?
How Can You Apply Positive Education in Your Home?
Praise Kids for Effort Rather Than Intelligence
This can be easier said than done, but studies have shown that by telling kids they’re smart, they’re actually less inclined to want to try new things because they don’t want to risk failing and losing that label. On the other hand, when you praise effort, kids understand that they can influence the result and are more likely to see failures as just temporary setbacks and learning opportunities.
Take an Interest in Your Kids’ Lives
Dr. Lisa Damour shared with us, “Parents want to understand and get to know their kids and often we do that by asking them questions about how their day was. I think that parents are often disappointed by what they get over the dinner table when they say, ‘So how was school?’ and their kid says ‘fine,’ and then you say, ‘Well, what did you do?’ And they say, ‘Nothing.’
Dr. Jess Shatkin told us how he and his kids sit at the dinner table for an hour or longer, engaged in rich discussions.
It’s all about asking the right questions. If you aren’t sure what to ask, try downloading our list of 31 questions with talking points.
Encourage Special Interests!
Psychotherapist Sean Grover explains that by encouraging kids to pursue their own special interests, they’re developing something that makes them unique and gives them a boost of self-confidence. These special interests can also serve as tension outlets to get them moving and active, giving them somewhere to channel their energy.
Give Kids Jobs to Develop a Sense of Responsibility
Regardless of whether or not you decide to pay your kids an allowance for chores, giving them age-appropriate responsibilities helps them develop their own sense of responsibility. It will also, hopefully, help them learn the satisfaction of a job well done.
Here’s an age-appropriate chore chart if you need some guidelines.
Help Your Kids Find Their Strengths (Including Character Strengths)
Start noticing what causes your child to express joy and happiness. Is he generous with family and friends? How does he show this? Does he show sympathy? Is he caring and funny?
Begin to point these things out to him as you notice them. And keep a jar in his room where you can write down and store successes.
Teach Kids to Express Gratitude Daily
Expressing gratitude is something you can do as a family over the dinner table or could be done privately by journaling.
Talk to your kids about the importance of being thankful for what you have and for those in their lives. Start a gratitude practice as a family (whether it’s done individually or as a group).
Final Thoughts on Positive Education
In his book, Rough explains that James Heckman, an economist at the University of Chicago, wanted to examine more closely the idea that young people with GEDs were just as prepared for further academic pursuits as high-school graduates.
Rough writes, “what was missing from the equation, Heckman concluded, were the psychological traits that allow the high school graduates to make it through school. Those traits – an inclination to persist at a boring and often unrewarding task; the ability to delay gratification; the tendency to follow through on a plan – also turned out to be valuable in college, in the workplace, and in life generally.”
Fortunately, these character skills can be taught.
Some ways you can apply positive education techniques in your home are:
- Praise kids for effort rather than intelligence
- Provide a consistent family routine (kids thrive on the comfort of routine)
- Take an interest in your kids’ lives
- Encourage special interests
- Encourage free playtime (with the TV off)
- Give kids age-appropriate jobs
- Celebrate who your kids are, not just what they achieve
- Help kids find their strengths
- Teach them to overcome challenges and see them as a learning opportunity
- Teach them to practice gratitude daily
Are you practicing some or all of these techniques with your own kids? Are you finding positive education is being introduced in your own schools? We would love to hear from you! Please leave us a comment below.