Before kids say something mean, before they behave in a disruptive manner that causes themselves and others grief, before they feel a bad feeling - or a good feeling - or any kind of feeling, they think a thought!
True or not?
That's why I'm always warning kids about "monkey thoughts." I teach my students to look inside their heads. Never assume what one is thinking is really the truth. That can be lethal! Because sometimes, honestly? It's all just blah blah - the things we say to ourselves. Lots of that stuff is super in-accurate.
So what's a "monkey thought?"
Oh, that's the easy part. "Monkey thoughts" are those pesky little thoughts, noisy and annoying, that make us fret, get us upset, make us fidgety, and ruin our day!
"This is too hard!" - monkey thought
"The world is ending!" - monkey thought
"No one likes me..." - monkey thought.
"I am SOOOOO bored!"- monkey thought
"Life is SO unfair!" - monkey thought
"Teaching is killing me!" - Teacher attacked by a monkey on a bad day.
No, you'll live. A better thought might be, "Today is pretty pathetic, but I'm certain tomorrow will be better. If not, there's always ice cream."
Catching on? It's not rocket science. Bad moods are often just weird thoughts gone astray. They're monkey-made.
The Good News!
The good news is that most kids, once monkeys are explained to them, can learn to tame their critters pretty easily. After all, we're not talking about real monkeys who swing from big trees. Those monkeys would be tricky to tame. But worry monkeys? Downer monkeys? They're mostly easy to get rid of once they're spotted.
Bullying and self-bullying
Kids who are mean to themselves in their heads end up being mean to others - just to make themselves feel better. But what if that student never had that self-bullying thought in the first place? How would they act then? Much more kindly, I'm certain.
Students who are habitually confrontational? Quite often, they're just victims of bad monkey habits! Asking the right question: "What exactly were you thinking right before you did that weird thing?" can solve a lot.
Misbehaving child scrunches up their face, ponders a bit, then mumbles, 'Uh.. I don't know..." to which I reply, "Yeah, I figured that. Maybe you should know!"
*Giggles from the kid* - followed by better behavior.
I exaggerate cutely when posing the question to younger students. With older kids, I edge it up: "Seriously? You can't control your monkeys?" *raised eyes*
That usually gets me a smile. And sometimes even, "I'll try harder."
Back from me: "Thank you. That's all I ask."
FYI: The "monkey mind" term is "mindfulness" lingo. I didn't make it up. Just being clear.
I often ask girls in a muddle, "What exactly did you say to yourself - right before you fell into the drama?" Most girls can easily track their feelings back to negative thought. "I was thinking I'm a social klutz."
"So stop thinking inaccurately."
*grin of relief* "Okay."
I never ask boys about their feelings. After raising two boys and counseling oddles of them, I have learned "what were you thinking?" is a much better question to pose than, "What made you feel like that?"
Boys go cross-eyed when asked about feelings - yet are always willing to share what they think. It's a wording thing.
"All I ask is that you pay attention to what you're thinking before you do something odd."
"Okay. On it, teach!"
Believe it or not, that suggestion works miracles. Everyone knows boys like to track stuff.
But why am I typing so much? The students below explain even better. Use the videos below to help your students learn to tell the difference between positive and negative thoughts:
Kids on Vids
CLICK HERE for a lovely lesson featuring two of my own fourth graders. The part about the hippo is especially good.
CLICK HERE for a more complex lesson featuring Bullyproof Rainbow kids. They rock!
CLICK HERE if you've been searching for a worry-not unit. I'm I am Bullyproof Music, so I always include a song. Here's a bit of the chorus:
He's just a monkey - he don't know squat....
just a silly little monkey who just likes to hear himself talk and talk and talk and talk...