“Why should I praise, compliment kids or students for things they should be doing anyway?”

My experience is that when someone says that or asks that, they—themselves—are feeling terribly un-praised and under appreciated for what they do in life.   The comment really means, “I am unappreciated, so why should I appreciate others?” I don’t attack people for this blinded comment about themselves, nor do I try to argue back from the mountains of evidence showing that all living humans need this. The comment arises from a wound, and the wound needs a healing. How can one do that? Here are two examples: I’ve modeled for PAX Partner Coaches (people who help implement the PAX Good…

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How Can A Nurturing Environment Reduce Bias, Prejudice and Conflict Between Groups?

The classic experiment that shows this happened in the 1950s, the Robbers Cave study (Sherif, Harvey, Hood, Sherif, & White, 1988).  An excellent 3-minute video summarizes how this classic experiment worked, which you can view at http://bit.ly/robbers-cave.  Now that study happened more than 60 years ago with some middle-class boys in state park by the name of Robbers Cave in Oklahoma.  The experiment happened in three stages: Stage one: The boys were randomly assigned to two groups, and never knew about the other group for a week. During the first week, each “team” (self named as the Rattlers or the…

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The Nurture Effect of PAX Good Behavior Game: Is It Real?

It’s interesting hear some reactions to the PAX Good Behavior Game. Some think it must be turning to children into robots, because the children become more pro-social, helpful, and engaged. Others think it’s too soft and fluffy, because the children are not given “consequences” for “bad” behaviors. If we cite the incredible scientific research, systematically replicated in the world about PAX GBG, some are so jaded by the anti-science noise in the mass media that they dismiss it. There is nothing like people seeing the benefits and immediate outcomes in their own communities, classrooms, and children. That’s happening in Ohio,…

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Can Nurturing Environments “Turn On” Protective Genes?

Yes, indeed, through a process called epigenetics. Chances are you’ve never heard of changes in gene expression, since most people were taught your genes are for life. Well, we do have our genes for life—but many of our genes change their expression based on our social interactions at home, at school or in the community. Many of the genes that change the most involve our brains. Consider the genes regulating Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, or BDNF for short. Feeling depressed? Many medications change your BDNF to feel less depressed? Having trouble learning new things? You might not be producing enough BDNF,…

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Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Are Preventable

On April 1, 2014, the Wall Street Journal Editorial (unsigned) declared, “…there is no known way to prevent severe mental illness.” This statement is scientifically and verifiably false, easily established by the scores of gold-standard, randomized control studies indexed in the US National Library of Medicine (www.pubmed.gov). So, I drafted a letter in reply, which has not been published by the WSJ. Twenty three-leading prevention scientists, signed on to the letter. Our letter is reproduced below, and ask that readers share this with local papers and media, leaders, and elected officials. Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Are Preventable. The Wall…

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Building a World-Class National Prevention System

Prevention science has reached a point at which all U.S. communities can ensure that each young person reaches adulthood with the skills, interests, and health habits needed to lead a productive life in caring relationships with others.1 The 2009 IOM1 report identified several tested and effective programs, policies, and practices for the prenatal period through adolescence to prevent development of the most common and costly problems of youth, including academic failure, delinquency, depression, pregnancy, and alcohol and drug use.  If a national initiative ensues that promotes acceptance and implementation of these effective interventions, virtually every citizen will benefit. The Cost…

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My Brother’s Keeper: The Vital Role of Prevention Science

We were pleased to hear about the “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative. It addresses a very significant need in society.  As President Obama indicated, young men of color are particularly at risk for a wide variety of problems. There are many factors that influence the statistics, primary of which is their high rate of poverty, harsher living conditions, institutional racism, stressful family dynamics and lack of opportunities.  The consequences for the nation are substantial.  Economist Ted Miller estimated the cost of the most common problems for all youth, such as violence, drug abuse, high-risk sexual behavior, poor academic achievement, high school dropouts and…

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All the Troubled People

Ever wonder where all the troubled people we see in our communities come from?  Or how we might prevent young people from becoming troubled?  I am thinking about the people in our jails and prisons, people with drug and alcohol abuse problems; people we see begging in the street; young people who drop out of school and have babies at far too early an age. I am also thinking about people who abuse their kids—or their spouse.  And all the people living in poverty. Based on the huge amount of behavioral science research done in the past fifty years, I…

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Benefits of the Mindful Pursuit of Values

Recent research in clinical psychology reveals three basic principles thathave relevance for all of us.  The first is that rather than trying to control troublesome thoughts and feelings it works better to accept them and not struggle with them. In dealing with most problems of human behavior we are hampered by thoughts and feelings that get in the way of change.  If you have ever tried to quit smoking, you may have found that cravings and difficulty concentrating drove you back to smoking.  If you have been depressed, your efforts to get moving (a well-established antidote to depression) might have…

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