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How This One Simple Activity Can Protect Your Students From Peer Pressure...but You'll have to w

The 7 Essentials: #4 - A Culture of Connection

Championeers! Circle Time is one of the most powerful weapons you have against Peer Pressure! It provides a place for each of your students to be an equal part of the team. By changing proximity from student desks to the "circle" you call each child to take their place at the preverbal round table, like the knights in King Arthur’s court. When done correctly, you create a safe environment for students to share their ideas and contribute to a school-wide project with mutual respect. This provides individual significance as well as unity in your class, and your school with each child having a purpose and a place within them.

This creates a sense of safety through belonging and connection.

The fourth building block in the Rhinehart Hierarchy of People Empowerment (RHOPE) Strategy, is a culture of connection. Connecting with others helps children answers the question, “Where am I going and who am I going with?” If your brain has not satisfied these questions it will put up emotional barriers to keep a safe distance between you and the unverified, unvalidated "strangers" you co-exist with. Don't underestimate the power of this self-defense mechanism. if you don't feel like you can be vulnerable and interdependent with those in your close proximity, you will take a subconscious defensive position while with them and not even realizing you're doing it.

This makes some of the most emotionally unsafe environments our homes, schools, and workplaces. Your brain knows it, and won't let you forget it unless the "belonging" requirements it needs to feel safe have been met.

In a culture that is so driven by social media and interaction we've never had so many people feeling so lonely and disconnected. According to Oxford University psychology professor Robin Dunbar, people nowadays, average about 150 friends on Facebook, but out of those only about 13 would show empathy in a crisis and only about 4 would take action. According to another study of friends conducted in the UK, the average person reported only having .5 real friends. We've lost the art of genuine relationships, including how to build them or how to maintain them. If you want real, authentic, sincere connections in your school, you are going to have to work for them and lead the charge by example.

"Belonging is one of the greatest psychological

needs of humans, superseding almost all other needs. It is the rocket fuel behind peer pressure, causing children to do almost anything to “fit in.”

Belonging defuses peer pressure because children who are able to connect with smaller interest groups are less likely to follow the crowd. These interest groups not only provide community, but also provide group goals that satisfy the immediate question of “Where am I going - right now?” Your Action Item

Your action item is to establish your classroom as a mini-tribe within the larger social structure of your school. Within it form smaller teams, based on interests, to accomplish a specific task within a classroom goal, that fits within the school-wide Championeers! unit.

For example, choose a unique project for your classroom to contribute to the school-wide Championeers! Leadership Project (the production and surrounding events). Consider one mini-event or activity your classroom could spearhead, such as:

  • Caveman Cupcake Day where your students either bake, decorate, or just deliver cupcakes to schoolmates. It could even become a fundraiser to help students earn their next leadership packs.

  • How about a Caveman Classroom Decor Competition... then have a school parade to see all the wonderfully decorated classrooms.

  • Declare a "You're Awesome Day!" where your students make posters for each classroom door. Write every child's name in that class on their poster with a thank you for being so awesome.

  • Show your students how to do a Kindness Ambush on your principal or schoolmates.

  • Deliver birthday wishes (cool pencil, card, badge, etc) to students during morning announcements, or at lunch?

Make spontaneous kindness and connections part of the normal "what you do" at your school.

Together, we can do this!


There are 7 Essential Elements required for children to be emotionally safe. When these are satisfied, your children are much less likely to succumb to peer pressure because they are empowered with tools to meet their emotional needs. We call these 7 Elements The RHOPE Strategy; Rinehart’s Hierarchy of Peer Empowerment. (c) 2015 Championeers.

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