7 Habits of Free Kids

The following article provides commentary regarding the messaging of the “7 Habits of Happy Kids” from the Leader In Me program. The Leader In Me program is marketed as a “whole school transformation process” that is “aligned to many national and state academic standards, including Common Core standards”.

The program is currently implemented in roughly 2,000 public school in the U.S. (out of ~100,000) and growing. When implemented, students review the habits daily, teachers incorporate the habits into lesson plans, the morning announcements highlight the habits, email correspondence mentions the habits, and faculty plans events promoting the habits. The habits are everywhere. With the broad exposure to these messages and the impressionability of kids, the program deserves some scrutiny.

While the title of each habit and the first few sentences are broadly agreeable, a continued reading of each places emphasis on secondary themes that are not in alignment with a free society. Generally, the disagreeable parts are subtle but champion collectivist ideas such as emotion-led decision making, “save the world” goal setting, and group-think problem solving.

In this article, you will find example revisions to the habits that maintain the primary theme but incorporate American principles of freedom such as individual knowledge, liberty, virtue and independence.

“Knowledge is, in every country, the surest basis of public happiness.”

-George Washington

In my case, the revisions were drafted so that we could discuss the 7 habits with our son from a freedom perspective. I created this post so that others with kids involved in a Leader In Me program might consider modifying the message to fit their values as well.

Below you will find the 7 habits in both original form and with an example revision. The disagreeable parts in the original are shown with a strikethrough font and were replaced with language consistent with American principles.

Habit 1 — Be Proactive

You’re in Charge

Original: I am a responsible person. I take initiative. I choose my actions, attitudes, and moods. I do not blame others for my wrong actions. I do the right thing without being asked, even when no one is looking.

Example Revision: I am a responsible person. I take initiative. I choose my actions, attitudes and moods. I do not blame others for my wrong actions and do not assume responsibility for the bad behavior of others. I always do the right thing, even when peers or authorities ask me to do the wrong thing.

“I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master.”

-Thomas Jefferson

Habit 2 — Begin with the End in Mind

Have a Plan

Original: I plan ahead and set goals. I do things that have meaning and make a difference. I am an important part of my classroom and contribute to my school’s mission and vision. I look for ways to be a good citizen.

Example Revision: I plan ahead and set goals. I do things that improve my knowledge and well-being. As an individual, I am important but not entitled. I attend school to receive an education that prepares me to excel in my chosen endeavors in life. I look for opportunities to acquire knowledge but reject ideas that imply service to any institution.

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”

-Thomas Jefferson

Habit 3 — Put First Things First

Work First, Then Play

Original: I spend my time on things that are most important. This means I say no to things I know I should not do. I set priorities, make a schedule, and follow my plan. I am disciplined and organized.

Example Revision: I spend my time on things that are most important. This means that I focus on reading, writing and arithmetic and eliminate time spent reciting buzzwords that distract from my quest for knowledge. I am self-disciplined in my lessons.

“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.”

-James Madison

Habit 4 — Think Win-Win

Everyone Can Win

Original: I balance courage for getting what I want with consideration for what others want. I make deposits in others’ Emotional Bank Accounts. When conflicts arise, I look for third alternatives.

Example Revision: I have the courage and wisdom to better myself without limiting others. In kind, I am respectful of others seeking to better themselves. When conflicts arise, I compromise on fads and stand by my convictions.

“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

-Thomas Jefferson

Habit 5 — Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Listen Before You Talk

Original: I listen to other people’s ideas and feelings. I try to see things from their viewpoints. I listen to others without interrupting. I am confident in voicing my ideas. I look people in the eyes when talking.

Example Revision: I seek facts and clarification. I question everything. I believe it is important to gather and verify information before reaching a conclusion. Armed with facts, I am confident in presenting my position; even when others may choose popular myths over unpopular truths.

“It is always better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing, than to believe what is wrong.”

-Thomas Jefferson

“Be always sure you are right, then go ahead”

-Davy Crockett

Habit 6 — Synergize

Together Is Better

Original: I value other people’s strengths and learn from them. I get along well with others, even people who are different than me. I work well in groups. I seek out other people’s ideas to solve problems because I know that by teaming with others we can create better solutions than anyone of us can alone. I am humble.

Example Revision: I value other people’s strengths and learn from them. With right mix, teams of individuals can solve problems more efficiently. However, I understand that often if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. My success is not dependent on others, I am independent.

“Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.”

-Thomas Jefferson

Habit 7 — Sharpen The Saw

Balance Feels Best

Original: I take care of my body by eating right, exercising and getting sleep. I spend time with family and friends. I learn in lots of ways and lots of places, not just at school. I find meaningful ways to help others.

Example Revision: I take care of my body by eating right, exercising and getting sleep. I spend time with family and friends. School is part of my education, but my family and individual choices define my values. I volunteer to help others.

“Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning.”

-Thomas Jefferson

The original “7 Habits of Happy Kids” can be found here.


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