Beyond Compliance: The HeartSmart High Five

Erik EllefsenThe CACE RoundtableLeave a Comment

We make thousands of choices every day. Children do too. How do we help children choose well? The goal is to build character, the ability to make a good choice in any given moment.

Sometimes we think that we’re building character in our schools when we’re actually building compliance. Do children choose the same thing when we’re not in the room? If we’re going to help children choose well, we need to allow them to practice, which means getting it wrong at times and feeling the consequence of those decisions. But we also need to show them what a good choice looks like and give them something that they remember beyond the classroom, something sticky.

The HeartSmart High Five are five, sticky principles that point children towards a healthy choice. They follow the old adage: instruct children in the way they should go, and when they’re old they won’t depart from it. That word instruct is about erecting a structure. These five principles work together to create a structure (mindset) in children that enables them to protect the heart of both themselves and others.

Here are the five principles:

  • Don’t forget to let love in! Choose a kind internal dialogue and receive the affirmation that comes your way.
  • Too much selfie isn’t healthy! Choose to consider others and grow in empathy.
  • Don’t rub it in, rub it out! Choose forgiveness and process pain in a healthy way.
  • Fake is a mistake! Choose truth and grow in authenticity and integrity.
  • “No way through” isn’t true! Choose perseverance and cultivate hope.

To hear more about HeartSmart, listen to this podcast conversation with Dave and Erik Ellefsen:

[podbean type=audio-rectangle resource=”episode=rqgmd-b077a2″]

These five principles help children partner with love and ultimately lead them towards resilience, character and emotional health. But there’s no age cap on them; the HeartSmart High Five might be useful in your own life too!


  • Erik Ellefsen

    Erik Ellefsen is a CACE Senior Fellow and the Director of Networks and Improvement at the Baylor University’s Center for School Leadership. He also serves as Senior Fellow for Cardus, hosts Digital Education (a podcast providing engaging conversations with some of the most innovative education leaders), and is a leading collaborator and author of the Mindshift and Future Ready projects.

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