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“Emotionally Nutritious” Words

I was impressed and amused by a class journal entry written by one of our third graders pointing out that her dog had demonstrated one of our schoolwide learning principles, “Try your best,” when it actually brought the ball back when playing fetch. Keeping a journal is one example of the countless creative ways our teachers help children understand and act in accord with positive values, starting in preschool. No wonder middle and high school teachers are often impressed by the confidence and character development of Meher School graduates.

A method teachers frequently use, the Nurtured Heart Approach, offers concrete ways to help even very young children identify with positive attributes. As with the third grade’s journal entries, it’s helpful to try to understand the attitudes and behaviors we want to develop and have words to describe them. What are the inspiring traits we want to develop?

Nurtured Heart offers hundreds of words and phrases that help us tune into and describe the budding qualities we see and want to develop. Some of the words, like persistent, tender-hearted, reasonable, and zestful, are considered “emotionally nutritious” words, which describe personality traits occurring in a given moment.

There are phrases that reflect more enduring qualities, like far-reaching curiosity, fierce purpose, and expansive intelligence. Teachers and parents are encouraged to use the lists and add to them or create their own and hang a copy where their children can see it, at home or in the classroom.

These Nurtured Heart words and creative activities help children be aware of their own positive qualities and their ability to see good in others—taking a strength-based approach rather than paying attention to weaknesses and deficits. Because of the brain’s negative bias, it takes a village to create an atmosphere where everyone is tuned to observe and appreciate what’s going right.

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