How Grownups can Empower Kids to Solve Social Problems

Recently on my podcast I shared a common problem that I see with adults, when intervening in conflicts.  It’s a mindset that, at first glance, seems like the right thing to do.  Upon further examination, we see that it actually hurts our children’s ability to be resilient and navigate social challenges.  I refer to it as the “Hero Mentality”. 

Defining the “Hero Mentality”

Picture yourself in a room where a noisy argument is occurring between children. You observe emotions ramping up, the tension builds, and you realize that something must be done to stop it (before things get out of control).  Examine your mindset in this moment.  Think of the things that you tell yourself.  If we’re honest, I think most adults would agree that our goal is to squash the squabble before it blows up.  We envision ourselves as the ones running in, breaking up the fight, and saving the day.  This is what I refer to as the “Hero Mentality”.

For Star Wars nerds, like myself, the “Hero Mentality” makes you the Luke Skywalker of the story.  You may not have a lightsaber or Jedi mind tricks, but you know that it’s your direct actions that result in the conflict being resolved.  What if this is all wrong?  Outspoken entrepreneur Chase Reeves once told a room of youth workers, “You’re not the Luke Skywalker of a kid’s story.  Your role is the creepy little green guy”.  What did he mean?  Our role is the mentor.

The “Hero Shift”

What happens when we shift our role from being the hero to becoming the mentor? All of a sudden, our focus changes to helping kids solve conflicts and win!  We move away from referring and become the coach and cheerleader. 

As a coach, you teach social skills, run drills, practice responding to aggressive behavior, ad provide feedback.  Taking the role of a cheerleader, you root for your player, encouraging them to press on for the goal.  This simple shift allows a child to become their own hero.  No longer are they relying on someone else because they have learned how to solve a problem on their own.

Isn’t our job as caring adults to raise a hero?

Moving Away from the Anti-Bully Prescription

Our mindset when it comes to mean behavior is important.  We all want to children that are being teased and tormented.  The modern-day anti-bullying movement has consistently relied on another person, policy, or program to stop the mean behavior and save the day.  This makes sense for criminal behavior but not emotional harm.  In this case, these methods rob children of the opportunity to be their own hero and build resilience. 

I’m so thankful for a new wave in education and mental health.  It is a sincere joy to help parents and educators raise resilient kids that are unfazed by bothering, joking, and non-criminal hurting behaviors.  

SQUABBLES® Conflict Resolution System

My colleagues and I are excited to empower more young people and grownups through our new conflict resolution system.  SQUABBLES® is your game plan for aggression.  It helps students learn why people are mean and how to stop them with three simple questions and a slew of fun games.  We bring playful approach to a painful problem. 

Please take a moment to check out SQUABBLES® On-Demand.  We offer a card game, student program, grownup training program, and a school curriculum license.  Together we can empower students through play!