Caring for others and problem solving go hand in hand. Thinking with your heart is a phrase borrowed from Social Thinking. Social Thinking is a curriculum commonly used with children diagnosed with autism, but it has many components that are just good teaching strategies for young children.
This is our definition for Thinking with your Heart:
Helping a friend solve a problem and
helping them to feel better at the same time.
To help the children realize when they were doing this - because they were - I tried to catch them in the moment. Sometimes they were helping a friend naturally. Sometimes I could see them trying to communicate, but they were not sure what to say or what to do.
I traced each child's hand and cut them out of fun patterned paper. This gave them some ownership and a connection with the visual used to symbolize their actions. Feedback that is specific and given immediately is the most effective. Verbal cues given to identify when this skill was being used or could be used:
"You are thinking with your heart."
"You used your words, not your hands to fix the problem."
"You helped your friend feel better."
"Your friend feel better now. Nice helping."
During play the other afternoon, these two children (ages 3 and 4) were getting upset because they both wanted to paint and ride on our stationary bicycle. At first, there was some yelling, fist pumping and foot stomping, then they decided together that they could take turns.
I waited for a natural break to come up during their play, then let them each choose a "high five" to put up on the wall for using words to fix a problem. Rather than a big discussion, I kept it short, "You used your words to fix the problem! Now you both feel better. Great job thinking with your hearts." This helped them jump right back into their play.
In March we are going to work on flexible thinking AKA being okay when something is different.