About Jon Lasser, PhD

Jon Lasser, PhD, is a psychologist, school psychologist, professor, and program director of the school psychology program at Texas State University. At Texas State, he has developed and taught graduate courses for the school psychology program and has also taught the freshman first-year experience course. Jon holds a bachelor’s degree in Plan II liberal arts from the University of Texas at Austin, a master’s degree in human sexuality education from the University of Pennsylvania, and a doctorate in school psychology from the University of Texas at Austin.

Everyday kindness: Strategies to help your young child build social and emotional skills

Children need strong social and emotional skills to succeed at home, at school, and in the community. Grow Kind, a book from Magination Press by Jon Lasser, PhD and Sage-Foster Lasser, explores two important social and emotional skills: social awareness and relationship skills.  Young children are developmentally egocentric. Empathy develops over time. As children’s brains develop, so does their ability to see things from the perspective of others. Kindness requires some thought about the needs and feelings of others. Just as kids develop better motor skills through activity and practice, social skills increase when children observe, think about, and engage in social activity.  An excerpt from the Note to Parents and Other Caregivers in Grow Kind identifies some ways to help your child develop kindness by seeing it in their own lives and having opportunities to demonstrate kind behaviors: Use a book  Books help us understand our experiences, connect to the thoughts and feelings of others, and show us possibilities. When sharing a book with your child, ask them about the thoughts and feelings of the characters to help them practice taking the perspective of others. In Grow Kind, for example, Kiko’s parents encourage her to take her sister’s perspective by asking her to let her sister get some much-need sleep. Ask your child how different characters might be feeling or thinking when you read aloud. Identify kindness when you see it If your child engages in an act of kindness, recognize the act and encourage them to think about it. For example, “You shared your truck with Maggie. How kind of you to give her a turn.” In addition, try to identify acts of kindness directed toward your child or yourself. For example, if a sibling helps your child with their homework, you might help your child view and appreciate that help as an act of kindness. Say something like, “Maria is kind to help you with your math homework. She must really love you.” Talk about how kindness makes people feel Ask your child questions such as, “How do you think Maggie felt after you offered her your truck to play with?” You can help your child with this process by talking about your own emotional responses to kindness. For example, “When my friend does something kind for me, I feel happy. It makes me feel like she cares about me, and makes me feel good inside.” Ask your child to describe how instances of kindness make them feel as you observe them in everyday life. This will help them become more attuned to their own feelings and the feelings of others. Engage in play that teaches kindness Encourage your child to make decisions in play that reflect positive interpersonal relationships. For example, “Wow, that food you’re making looks delicious! Do you think your neighbor might like some?” If a character is sad or upset in the game, ask your child what someone else could do to help them feel better. This can direct the play in

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Everyday kindness: Strategies to help your young child build social and emotional skills 2021-11-17T20:32:02-05:00

Why Gratitude is Great for Kids, Backed by Science

Teaching children about gratitude has become increasingly popular as families and schools have recognized the importance of social-emotional learning. We want children to develop the capacity to take the perspective of others, appreciate acts of kindness, and experience feelings of gratitude. Recent psychological research on gratitude confirms what parents and caregivers have long known: feeling grateful is good for us. A review of the scientific literature on gratitude1 compiled dozens of studies that link our gratitude to wellness. For example, researchers have found that gratitude is associated with: physical health stronger relationships greater likelihood of forgiving better sleep decreased stress In many cases, we're not sure if feeling grateful causes these outcomes or if the outcomes cause gratitude (perhaps those who have stronger relationships become more grateful). It's also possible that these factors don't have a direct, causal relationship, but rather they're just correlated or associated. Even so, we know that those who are grateful are more likely to experience these positive outcomes. Feeling grateful is good for us. Some researchers have been able to demonstrate in experimental conditions that thinking about that for which we are grateful makes us feel better. For example, simply making lists of things for which we are grateful can make us feel better, and those good feelings can persist for months. Gratitude lists take only a few minutes, but can have a powerful, positive impact on our affect. Unfortunately, most of the research on gratitude has been conducted with adults, so we're still learning how young children learn about and experience gratitude. It's possible that young children have been overlooked by researchers because of assumptions regarding a child's ability to think about others' feelings. While the capacity to take someone's perspective is still developing in early childhood, we know that children can read the facial expressions of others and that feelings of gratitude are emerging. This is an exciting developmental period in which families and schools can play an active role in helping children learn about gratitude. Picture books are a great starting point, as children use stories to identify with characters and makes sense of the world. Grow Grateful tells the story of a girl who goes on a camping trip with her teacher and classmates and learns about gratitude. Following the story is a section for adults that includes information about gratitude and activities for young children to engage them in hands-on experiences about feeling grateful. Here's one of the suggested activities from the back of Grow Grateful: Create grateful art Get out some art materials and work with your child to make something creative around the theme of gratitude. For example, cut out pictures from old magazines that represent things for which you are grateful and then glue them to poster board. Hang up your gratitude collage as a reminder of the things for which you’re thankful. When doing this, let your child select his or her own pictures, as gratitude is individualized and personal. Since

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Why Gratitude is Great for Kids, Backed by Science 2019-03-27T15:36:46-04:00

Helping Your Child Express Gratitude

Gratitude is a complex experience of thoughts and feelings that we have in relationships with others. Psychologists believe that gratitude is an important part of our overall well-being and that having gratitude leads to greater happiness and better interpersonal relationships. Most children develop thoughts and feelings related to gratitude through social learning (i.e., observing gratitude expressed by others) and by having their own experiences of gratitude. 

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Helping Your Child Express Gratitude 2018-09-06T15:22:58-04:00