Book Review: The Power of One

Trudy Ludwig has been a favorite children’s author of mine since I met her in the mid-2000s. Her books present wonderful life lessons to help children deal with bullying and stand up for themselves in an assertive, rather than aggressive, way.

Her latest book is The Power of One – Every Act of Kindness Counts. The story is about all the small ways we can be kind, build friendships, and grow a caring community.

The text shares specific things we can do for others while the illustrations show seeds being planted which eventually turn into a thriving community garden. The illustrations by Mike Curato are beautiful. As the characters in the story plant seeds, Curato’s pictures bring the garden to life and shows the joy of building a positive community.

Trudy also includes information for adults in the back of the book on simple ways to grow a positive community through actions like “including the excluded in your group, game, or activity” and “having the courage to take responsibility for intentional/unintentional wrongdoing by apologizing and making up for the hurt you’ve caused others.”

My favorite part in the story is when she says, “One good listener…can make even the smallest voice heard.” Listening to others is one of the most powerful things we can do to make all children and adults feel welcome and appreciated. Getting children to think about the importance of listening is a critical step in stopping bullying, understanding different perspectives, and creating a safe social culture where children can thrive.

“You don’t have to be a superhero to be a hero in another kid’s eyes,” says Trudy. “It all starts with each of us reaching out in kind ways to make a positive difference in others’ lives. And the more acts of kindness we do, the better we become in improving our relationships with one another and our communities.”

Trudy Ludwig and the cover of her latest book.

Modeling Kindness For Children Prevents Bullying

Without a doubt, children see and hear much more than adults realize. When children watch adults interacting with each other, it is their first glimpse into what is acceptable behavior.

When we are around children, but talking to adults:

  • Do we listen to others with compassion?
  • Do we change the subject when someone is incessantly gossiping?
  • Are we respectful and kind, regardless of whether they are a CEO or a janitor?

No one is perfect at relationships, but if we work hard to listen to friends and treat others with respect we will prevent bullying by modeling these pro-social behaviors for children. Not to mention, these positive behaviors will also help us to have more inner peace and healthy relationships!

The Greatest Gift We Can Offer a Friend

In my darkest days I have struggled with chronic pain, bullying, workplace bullying, and divorce. During these times, my friends couldn’t change any of these situations. I was the person who had to pursue new medical treatments, find a new job, and grieve a past relationship. However, the simple act of a friend listening reminded me that I was still loved, that my feelings were valid, and that I did have skills to improve my situation.

How has a friend listening helped you heal? Please leave a reply below to share the blessings of listening.

In addition, to encourage conversation about listening with children and adults, share William Carlos Williams’ poem below. This poem beautifully describes the great gift of being present for a friend.

The Friend Who Just Stands

When trouble comes your soul to try, 
You love the friend who just “stands by.” 
Perhaps there’s nothing he can do- 
The thing is strictly up to you; 
For there are troubles all your own, 
And paths the soul must tread also alone; 
Times when love cannot smooth the road 
Nor friendship lift the heavy load, 
But just to know you have a friend 
Who will “stand by” until the end, 
Whose sympathy through all endures, 
Whose warm handclasp is always yours- 
It helps, someway, to pull you through, 
Although there’s nothing he can do. 
And so with fervent heart you cry, 
“God bless the friend who just ‘stands by’!”

By: William Carlos Williams

An art project made out of wax sticks by a student in the Respect Program. The lesson theme that day was “Healthy Friendships.”

Stop Bullying Before it Starts with Compassionate Communication

When children or adults are rude to someone, there is a natural reaction to justify that behavior. Such as, “I told them their idea is terrible because it is!” Whether it was a terrible idea or not, telling someone how wrong they are will certainly not solve the problem. Why not ask the person some questions about her perspective on this “terrible idea”? I find that when I stop being judgmental and start understanding the person’s perspective my compassion increases, which opens up a healthy dialogue with that person and allows the two of us to find solutions. This dialogue also increases our ability to work together as a team in the future.

When children (or adults) are caught bullying others, be prepared for a list of reasons that they feel totally justified in their behavior. When we are angry and lashing out, we need to be reminded to:

  1. Learn to deal with anger in healthy ways, like journaling or talking with a trusted friend.
  2. Be open and honest about our role in conflicts with each other
  3. Apologize when we are acting like bullies, and
  4. Make amends. This is not just about saying “I’m sorry,” but rather about being more considerate and kind in the future. Even if most of a situation is not my fault, apologizing for my part in the conflict has led to peace and healing in several of my challenging relationships with friends and co-workers.

This is all easier said than done, but the more we work at these steps, the more productive and fun our time will be with others. Otherwise, one person’s bad attitude can justify repeated bullying attacks, which can escalate over time. Conflicts will always continue to arise in life, but with respect and clear communication, we can work together to resolve issues peacefully.

William Blake wrote about conflict escalating in his poem A Poison Tree. You can find this poem in many collections of his work, including Poetry for Young People – William Blake, which is ideal for children ages nine to twelve. This is a great poem to discuss with children to get them talking about how to deal with conflict and the consequences of letting problems escalate.

A Poison Tree

I was angry with my friend; 
I told my wrath, my wrath did end. 
I was angry with my foe: 
I told it not, my wrath did grow. 

And I waterd it in fears, 
Night & morning with my tears: 
And I sunned it with smiles, 
And with soft deceitful wiles. 

And it grew both day and night. 
Till it bore an apple bright. 
And my foe beheld it shine, 
And he knew that it was mine. 

And into my garden stole, 
When the night had veild the pole; 
In the morning glad I see; 
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

-William Blake