Every school year has a certain rhythm to it, a cadence of sorts. Beginning in August, teachers and families prepare for school by finishing math packets, purchasing school supplies and reconnecting with peers. The onset of school in September brings a certain energy to the hallways both at Gill and at home, as excitement revolves around new classes and friends. It seems we sprint toward back to school night and Homecoming/Family Day, moving on adrenalin and high spirits.
As we exit Phase I of the school cycle and the leaves begin to change, our focus naturally shifts. Things are no longer new, grades and assessments become a reality, and the ups-and-downs of the pre-teen and adolescent years tend to resurface after the novelty and euphoria of a new school year wears off.
In framing Phase II of the school year, it is important for us to examine the power of positive conversations in order to promote a culture of lasting happiness and meaning in our students’ and children’s lives.
We all know that positivity is critical in the development of children. Positivity helps create happiness and perseverance. But, in looking at what happens chemically in the brain, research reported by the Harvard Business Review explains that when people are involved in positive conversations, the production of oxytocin is ignited. This chemical is a “feel good hormone that elevates our ability to communicate, collaborate and trust others by activating networks in our prefrontal cortex.”
When we face rejection, fear, or feel marginalized or minimized, “our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviors.” These effects can last for more than 24 hours, “imprinting the interaction on our memories and magnifying the impact it has on our future behavior.”
In essence, research shows us that the way we speak to each other directly impacts our ability to work together, organize and solve problems. In the world of teaching and parenting, thinking about what is happening in the brain during certain types of interactions becomes critical in our efforts to raise healthy collaborators and solution makers.
It is certainly our job to provide constructive criticism, guidance and discipline, but in the spirit of promoting grit and resiliency in the next generation, we can frame this guidance in a positive light. Roll up your sleeves, place great value on each and every conversation you have with your child, and find creative ways to balance discipline with positivity.
Phase II of the school year is upon us, so let’s create a culture where positive conversations sustain us. Enjoy the coming weeks during this beautiful time of year at Gill St. Bernard’s, and rejoice in the power of positive conversations.
Glaser, Judith and Glaser, Richard, “The Neurochemistry of Positive Conversations;” Harvard Business Review.
Feiler, Bruce, The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinners, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More; 2013.