What you'll learn in this podcast:
- Science Says—How to make thinking positive thoughts a bit easier.
- Life Hack—Learn how to control your mind chatter.
- Practitioner’s Corner—Meet Tara Kennedy Kline, the woman behind the new line of dolls and characters that are teaching positive psychology to children.
Read the interview from the Practitioner's Corner:
In a world where games and entertainment for children is going digital, Tara Kennedy Kline is building toys with purpose, meaning and positive psychology teachings! Tara Kennedy Kline is a graduate of the Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP) Program. Residing in Philadelphia, PA, she is a parenting advocate, author and creator of the Within Me Now Series of positive psychology toys for children. Here’s our interview:
Emiliya: Welcome Tara! Tell us more about what you’ve created and how you got started.
Tara: I wanted to give parents and children positive experiences and positive mindsets about themselves. Initially, I thought we would just use the dolls to reinforce positive affirmations that what they needed was within them. Then I realized that within me now was more than just affirmations. Each character could represent a petal in the PERMA-V of the model of well-being that we learned about in the CAPP Program. So, for my graduation project I introduced the six characters: Penny (Positivity), Eva (Engagement), Rusty (Relationships), Max (Meaning), Amber (Achievement) and Violet (Vitality). Each is an 18-inch doll with its own storyboards. The goal was to create an experience for the parent and child, not just tell the story. We encourage the reader to put themselves into that scenario and ask what the person might be experiencing, thinking or feeling. How would they resolve the issue if they were in that person's shoes? My hope is that they will become a part of a Within Me Now Community and that each child will value themselves, recognize their strengths and learn the social and emotional skills that they need to thrive.
The characters are diverse and they represent the challenges that children are facing in classrooms that may not have had much attention before. For Eve who represents engagement has Asperger's. So, one of the things that she struggles with is self-regulation and choice and decision making. Through Eva's experiences and scenarios, children can learn to make better choices and their flow. They learn resilience, acceptance and many other positive psychology lessons that help them tackle the real-life problems they experience in school and with their friends and just growing up in general.
Emiliya: Wow, these are incredible. What are your dreams for Within Me Now?
Tara: My team and I are building a six-week curriculum for Grades K-3 and hope to get the Within Me Now characters into the hands parents, teachers and children all over the world. They are also talking to some major networks about animating Within Me Now into a positive psychology related children's cartoon series. They're even working on a clothing line of T-shirts that say "All the love I need is within me now." Or, "All the courage I need is within me now." Backpacks, journals and many delightful mediums for getting the messages of these lovable and friendly characters into the hands of children.
Emiliya: While I know that Within Me Now is a recent endeavor, you’ve been applying positive psychology in your own life and your family for nearly a decade. What are some of the strategies you’ve used?
Tara: One of the first things I started to do with my family was a co-operative gratitude journal. Every night, when I would put my kids to bed, I would ask them a few questions and I would answer the questions too. By doing that we got to know each other on an intimate level which is what I think is the basis for all wonderful parenting and child development.
We would talk about the five things that we were grateful for that day and then also ask a question about challenges such "what's something that went wrong today that I would do differently if I could do it over?" The ritual planted the seeds to their resilience and growth mindset.
Emiliya: What's a message that you'd love to share with others who are passionate about learning and spreading positive psychology?
Tara: There is something that's uniquely brilliant about you that will allow you to share it in a way that the people that need to hear it will hear, and it will be something they can only hear from you. So even if you're doubting yourself, or you think your dreams or too big, or not practical enough, go with your gifts. Go with what you love.
Someone once told me, "If I'm preaching my message people will turn from me. But if I'm living my message people will follow me." Just live into this message and you will call to you the people that need to hear it from you in your way.
Emiliya: What are the self-care practices that nourish you?
Tara: I love daily exercise. Just getting on the treadmill every single day. It's something that I had gotten away from, but once I did the CAPP Program and realized the impact that exercise was making on my mood and my brain, I shifted my perspective on movement. I used to hold the belief that I had to exercise to get myself skinny or I had to exercise to make myself look a certain way.
Now I exercise make my brain work. I have some of my best ideas when I'm on the treadmill or just walking outside. Also, changing the way that I eat. I can't say I didn't have a can of tortelini for breakfast this morning so it's not a perfect science, but I do find myself making better choices when I have choices to make. That has made a huge difference in my life.
The final thing is surrounding myself with people who share my common belief for a more positive community and a more positive environment for my kids. For a long time in my life, I allowed myself to remain surrounded by some really negative people. Once I started doing the CAPP Program and realized how incredible it was to have a tribe of positive and supportive people, I realized how much that was lacking in my life. Before every On Site, I'd find myself so excited in anticipation to see everyone. I realized that I needed to get more of that in my everyday life.
It's another reason I'm so passionate about bringing Within Me Now into classrooms. I want classrooms to feel what my classmates and I feel when we study and apply positive psychology. I want them to experience the types of conversations that my family and I have worked to create at our dinner table. And most importantly, I want them to feel the sense of connection to themselves and to one another as they learn life skills that give them strength from the inside out. that way for all students. I want every student in a public school classroom to feel the way we do when a whole bunch of positive psychology students are getting together in a classroom and maybe we don't all agree but we respectfully communicate with each other and we are all more focused on lifting each other up than we are on tearing each other down. Can you speak more about what those are and how you came about having family pillars like when I think about my upbringing I think my family had pillars that we never never actually voiced them. It's sort of like the unconscious family culture that was created but it sounds like you and your family have been conscious and purposeful about what you've created.
Emiliya: Rumor has it that in your family, you have pillars that you live by. Can you speak more to how you created that and got your family on board?
Tara: Yes absolutely. It's something that I created when my children were younger because I felt like I was constantly having to recite the rules. I think a lot of parents can empathize with that statement. We feel like we're not really role models as much as we are guards or drill sergeants. We spend all day saying, "We don't jump on the sofa," and "We don't poke our brother," and "We don't put things up our nose," and "We don't do this and we don't do that." Children don't set out to break our rules, it's just that we have too many of them.
Everything suddenly becomes a rule when you have kids. So what we've established is our family pillars. For example: We are kind and we are respectful. We are honest and we are patient. We are gentle.
So if someone was acting in a way that wasn't respectful, instead of saying, "You we don't call people that name," I can say, what you did wasn't respectful or it wasn't. We don't take things from people because that isn't kind, and that's not respectful. We don't yell at people because that's not gentle and that's not patient. Having these family pillars makes it a lot easier to follow the rules.
Emiliya: I love that. These pillars also give you and your family an opportunity to recognize, celebrate and appreciate when the pillars are being upheld, instead of only providing feedback to your children when a rule is broken. It's just how we describe the difference between traditional psychology and positive psychology. Traditional psychology was trying to figure out what we shouldn't be doing or how do we treat or prevent disease. Positive psychology identifies what are the behaviors we want and how do we build mental health and well-being.
Emiliya: What are some of your “words to live by”?
Tara: I have two favorites. “Don’t complain about what you permit.” It’s one of my kick in the butt statements. And the other is, “Seek first to understand.”
Emiliya: Any closing thoughts?
Tara: Just that we spend most of our lives struggling and going over hurdles. When our kids reach their 30s or late 20s they start grappling with what their purpose is, or what’s going to bring them meaning. Some people tend to think that kids are too young to start asking these questions or that they may not get these types of skills. But they do and they love it. My wish is that we create more opportunities to show children how to find their strengths and their resourcefulness. That they see themselves as whole in their uniqueness and that parents, teachers and kids have vehicles for celebrating what’s right with eachother.