Looking forward to speaking on the topic of “Reducing Stress in Children and Teens” on Monday, January 13th at the New Rochelle SEPTA meeting. The meeting, which is open to all, will begin at 7:30 p.m. in room 207 at New Rochelle High School, 265 Clove Road. Hope to see you there.

To be successful in college and life, students need more than academic skills. They need character skills. If you are a school counselor who is interested in helping students and staff grow character strengths of heart (e.g., kindness), mind (e.g., flexibility), and will (e.g., grit) in your school, but don’t know where to start, you have come to the right workshop. In this workshop, we will discuss ways to implement strategies that will create and sustain ripple effects of well-being in your school. You will leave with resources that will allow your students to not only meet the challenges of today’s changing world, but flourish! Get ready to walk away with meaningful ways to benefit your students, staff, and yourself.


Join me at Book.Con 2018 on June 3rd at the Javits Center. I will be signing my book, The Grit Guide for Teens    from 11-1. Catch me at the New Harbinger booth #2249. Bill Clinton and James Patterson will be there promoting their new book at the same time! Will be a fun and exciting event. To buy tickets see link below.


This workshop will introduce mental health professionals and school personnel to cognitive behavioral techniques that can be used in a classroom or office setting. Strategies that address children who are exhibiting internalizing disorders (anxiety, depression OCD) and externalizing disorders (ADHD, aggression) will be discussed. Third wave CBT approaches such as growth mindset, mindfulness, and acceptance will be shared. Participants will walk away with actual strategies that they can use in their office or in the classroom.

To sign up, please go to : http://albertellis.org/event/rebtcbt-strategies-working-school-age-children/

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Volume 46 Issue 3

It’s the day of the state math test at Harrison Avenue Elementary School in Westchester County, New York, and Persee, the perseverant puppy mascot, sits on top of the smart board, a visual reminder to students of the instruction they have been given throughout the school year that “perseverance pays off!” When faced with a challenging question, Persee reminds these third graders to exhibit an optimistic mindset, use flexible strategies in the face of obstacles, and to treat themselves with kindness and compassion.

Understanding and Framing the Problem

Persee is just one part of a transformation taking place at Harrison Avenue, the elementary school where I work as a school psychologist. He is part of a larger, concerted effort to explicitly teach character strengths such as kindness, mental flexibility, grit, and self-control. This year, working together with classroom teachers, we examined what kindness looks like in each grade, why self-control and grit are important, and how flexibility and problem solving can be used when facing an obstacle. This is critical work because, as important as academics are to student success, developing character strengths is just as crucial for today’s learners.

This year, as part of a deliberate initiative to teach character strengths, I worked one-on-one with a third grade class. Approximately once a month, the classroom teacher and I taught lessons on kindness, empathy, problem solving, flexibility, self-control, and grit. Each lesson contained a discussion, partner work, and videos to support the ideas. Outside the lessons, the teacher supported the work through literature and by reinforcing the strengths that were taught. For example, when she noticed students being flexible or persistent during testing, she praised the behavior. Before state tests, we placed Persee on the smart board as a visual reminder to the children that persistence pays off. One girl told me that when she was feeling stuck, looking at Persee helped her get over the hurdle. Another student told me that our conversations about kindness and empathy helped her avoid recess drama. During my final meeting with this class, I could see that they had absorbed this material on a cellular level. It was truly a part of them! Other teachers, noticing the positive results we were achieving in this classroom, want to take part as well, so this work will continue to spread throughout the building in years to come.

Linking to Existing Priorities

In addition to working closely with this class, I modified the fifth grade service club to include lessons on kindness, grit, and self-control. Service Club has existed at Harrison Avenue for many years as a way for the school’s oldest students to be leaders and complete service both inside and outside of school. What was different this year was that in addition to raising money for charity and participating in volunteer work, the fifth grade students served as teachers, role models, and accountability partners for the younger students. For example, for one project, fifth grade service club students learned about self-control. Then, with my help, they modified the presentation for younger students. Specifically, we adapted Walter Mischel’s famous “marshmallow” study in which children had a choice between having one marshmallow now or two marshmallows later. The younger students had a similar choice while listening to the fifth grade student presentation, and I am proud to say that the students all waited! Furthermore, after teaching this lesson, I noticed that the self-control of the teachers (the fifth graders) had also dramatically improved.

Through this work, I have noticed a cultural shift in the building. Students are seeking out opportunities to be kind, greeting each other with warm hellos and smiles, making an effort to hold the door for each other or pick up someone’s pencil. Students have shared with me that there is a spot on the playground where you can go if you do not have anyone to play with, and others know to join you there. In this way, students are creating ripples of kindness that affect the whole school community.

They are also being more deliberate and strategic in their use of self-control strategies. They are avoiding temptations (putting away supplies that distract them) or reframing those temptations (asking themselves, “Is it worth it to play with the papers in my desk?”) instead of relying on willpower alone. I love when I go into a classroom and hear students complimenting each other for demonstrating self-control strategies.

Students are learning to be more flexible when it comes to solving academic problems. Teachers are sharing with me that they see students being more persistent and flexible when taking exams. By learning to embrace challenges, our students are becoming more willing to take on hard things. Instead of taking failures personally, they are learning to see them as part of the process that leads to success. A real benefit for me of engaging in this type of work is that students see me in a positive light, which I hope will allow them to feel more comfortable and open to talk with me about their problems. A third grader shared with me that she was struggling to open the door to the classroom. She kept using the same strategy of turning the doorknob repeatedly. However, when she saw me in the hall, she thought to herself, “Maybe I need to try a different strategy.” Sure enough, when she tried something different, she was able to open the door.

Working With Allies

I am fortunate to have the support of my principal, who believes that developing these strengths is necessary for today’s youth. By having the blessing of my principal and starting slowly with one teacher, this program is organically growing without any resistance throughout the building. Teachers in my building are noticing the way this class is acting on the playground, walking in the hall, and persisting on high stakes tests and they want to be a part of what is going on.

We are also creating ripple effects beyond the classroom by collaborating with parents. I began the school year with a PTA meeting outlining the importance of character strengths. Throughout the year, I sent home newsletters reporting on what we were doing, and I finished the year with a party that featured a video montage of students sharing how they grew their character strengths.

Future Leadership Goals and Overcoming Barriers

But, just like my student who got stuck opening the door, there were challenges in implementing this work, the main one being finding time to do the work. Because even though I know this work is valuable, it didn’t reduce the responsibilities that are associated with being a school psychologist (testing, meetings, IEPs, etc.). My hope is that by doing this proactive and preventive work, there will be less of a need for some of the traditional work associated with being a school psychologist. Another goal of mine is to find time to collect data that will support what I know anecdotally is taking place. Furthermore, now that more teachers want to be involved, I will have to find the time to accommodate this growing interest. A good problem to have, I know, but a challenge nonetheless.

Ongoing Evaluation and Implementation

I plan on expanding this program by working through our existing buddy program. The buddy program gives older students a chance to buddy with and mentor younger students. During buddy time, both the older and younger students can work on building character strengths with the added benefit of a built-in accountability partner. Since the teachers have already planned for buddy time in their schedules, it will be easier to fit this work into everyone’s busy day. I hope to collect some data on the effectiveness of this program.

Scaling Up

By directly and explicitly teaching the character skills students need to succeed, we are preparing them to be tomorrow’s leaders. I am proud to be part of a school and community that is committed not only to growing children’s academic proficiency, but to nurturing their character as well. I know that the students, teachers, and the community at large have all benefited from this work.

I encourage other school psychologists to introduce the teaching of character strengths at school next year. To get more involved in the world movement to develop students’ character strengths and well-being, visit IPEN (International Positive Education Network; http://www.ipositive-education.net). IPEN is dedicated to a “character+academics” approach to education around the world. NASP members can also visit my website (www.drbaruchfeldman.com) for more information or to request lessons I used with the third grade class and with the service club students.

School Psychology Awareness Week, November 13–17 School Psychology Awareness Week (SPAW) is almost here! Are you ready? SPAW is a great opportunity for outreach in your district. This year’s theme, “Power Up! Be a Positive Charge,” enables you to highlight what you and others can do to help connect the dots between students and the evidence-based practices that help them achieve their best. It is crucial that families, teachers, and administrators are aware of our role in making those connections and providing those servicers. For ideas and resources, go to http://www.nasponline.org/communications/spaw/index.aspx.

Nobel prize winners and Olympic athletes do not succeed by chance. A growing body of research is finding that grit, self-control, and a growth mindset can have a strong influence on the academic achievement and emotional well-being of children and teens. Furthermore, these qualities have been found to be the “secret sauce” to their success. In this talk, you will learn the latest research on grit, self-control, growth mindset and “failing forward”, as well as strategies that promote these characteristics. Dr. Baruch-Feldman is the author of the recently released book titled, The Grit Guide for Teens: A Workbook to Help You Build Perseverance, Self-Control, and a Growth Mindset.

If you missed my talk at Edgemont on The Keys to Student Success here is your opportunity to watch it.

Business consultant and camp guru, Sarah Kurtz McKinnon, interviews psychologist, writer, and fellow EOT faculty member, Dr. Caren Baruch-Feldman, about selecting staff with grit and cultivating their on-site perseverance.

Join Sarah Kurtz McKinnon and Dr. Caren Baruch-Feldman as they discuss, “Getting Staff To Be Gritty”, on Tuesday, Jan. 16 @ 1pm EST!

Register Here:

Psychologist Caren Baruch-Feldman offers 10 crucial strategies to help you stick to it, whatever “it” happens to be.

Being gritty, having self-control in the face of temptations, and rebounding from failure are not easy. However, there are ways that we know from science that make it easier for us to have stick-to-it-ness. The question is, what are some ways that can put you in the driver’s seat, as opposed to being driven by your temptations?

Here are my top ten strategies (secret recipe) based on the latest scientific research in helping people change in general that can be applied to growing your grit.

1. Frame the Behavior in the Positive

(For example, I will eat healthier, and I will be on time for class, I will get my work done on-time or early). Many people try to persist by simply resisting urges, using willpower and saying, “No” (e.g., no cookies, don’t be late, don’t procrastinate). However, the human mind doesn’t like being told “no.” Highlight the positive aspects rather than focusing on the deprivation.

2. Make It Easy to Be Gritty and Hard to Give into Temptation

Shawn Achor, a psychologist who wrote a book called Before Happiness: Five Actionable Strategies to Create a Positive Path to Success, speaks about wanting to run more and watch less TV. What did he do? He took the batteries out of the remote in his TV and slept in his running clothes, making it easier to focus on his long-term goal of running as opposed to what may make him feel better in the moment (TV watching).

3. Be Specific and Don’t Take on Too Much All at Once

It is best to change one behavior at a time. So don’t try to be grittier in all domains of your life at first. Specifically, take one area (e.g., academics) or one behavior (eating healthy) at a time. Also, you can shrink the change by breaking down the change so it no longer spooks you. It’s easier to tackle big problems if you take it on in small, manageable steps.

4. Write It Down and Monitor Yourself

We know that writing down what we want to accomplish helps change our brain more than just saying it. Also, what we monitor is what changes. Write down the specific steps to achieving your goal(s). Make goals actionable by scripting the essential moves and be specific. Instead of writing down, “I will go to the gym” in your phone or calendar, write down, “yoga, 7:30 Wednesday night.”

5. Pre-commit to Action

Pre-committing makes it more difficult to change our minds. I know when I pick out a class to go to from the gym and put the event in my calendar there is a greater chance that I will go, then when I decide to wing it and wait to see how I will feel on that particular day. Pre-committing makes it difficult to reverse your preferences.

6. Make It Public and Get Social Support

Let others know about your desire to be grittier and try to work on being grittier together. By letting people know what you are doing, you pre-commit and have a better chance of changing your ways. Also, when you surround yourself with other gritty people, their grit is contagious and will rub off on you.

In addition, when you are faced with a challenge, you can access that needed social support to get you right back in the game.

7. Stand Firm, No Wavering

This notion of “standing firm” has been, for me, one of the most important strategies in helping me be gritty. The idea is that to help you persist, it can be helpful to tell yourself that there is “No choice, this is what I am doing!” It is the wavering that causes all the trouble. Once you start having a dialogue, “Should I eat the cookie, it is only one, I was so good today,” or “I know I am late, but it is only a few minutes, I’m sure it will be fine,” you have lost the battle!

8. Change Your Environment and Avoid Your Triggers

Environmental cues have a tremendous effect on our behavior. We are much more successful when we set our environments up in a way that promotes gritty behavior than thinking we can put ourselves in a tempting environment and not give in. For example, turn the social media off when you study, instead of thinking you can resist the lure of Facebook or Instagram.

9. Develop Beliefs That Will Inspire You

Figure out your thinking traps, challenge them, and come up with new more helpful, positive ways to think that will inspire you to persevere. Focus on long-term goals as opposed to the immediate gratification. Having a growth mindset and being passionate about your future will inspire grittier behavior.

10. Get Back on Track and Don’t Overreact When You Mess Up

Remember, failure can be your friend. However, most people don’t see it that way and instead engage in the “what the heck phenomenon.” For example, once people lapse, they often react by blowing off the rest. For example, if they procrastinate by watching YouTube videos, they might as well blow the whole night off and watch some more. Instead of learning from the lapse, they overreact, causing way more damage than if they just got back on track.

This post was originally published by HuffPost. Dr. Caren Baruch-Feldman is a psychologist and the author of, The Grit Guide for Teens: A Workbook to Help You Build Perseverance, Self-Control, and a Growth Mindset.

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