NPR journalist Anya Kamenetz, who interviewed me about consent education earlier this fall, has a new piece about “How Schools Can Reduce Sexual Violence” through the power of engaging with positive social norms. The idea is that many students assume that others are getting drunk, or would not intervene as a bystander in a dangerous situation, but more people make safer choices that students think. We don’t always talk about those norms, when it would be really helpful to do so. As Anya’s piece begins:

No one ever shows up at brunch and says, “Oh my gosh, I was so sober last night!” Risky behavior draws attention. As a result, people tend to assume that everyone else is doing it more than they really are.

This resonated with me because the two most important ethical frameworks in my life each use the power of positive practice to enhance learning. In Kidpower personal safety training, we practice what to do, rather than dwelling on what not to do. As kids practice looking at their surroundings with awareness, or moving away from an unsafe situation, or yelling “No,” we cheer on their successes and progress. We can help shape their behavior and encourage them by telling them what they are doing well, and encouraging them to keep practicing, with specific, positive coaching. When it comes to talking about rules for strangers, we teach “Stranger Safety.” The rules for interacting with strangers are different than the rules for people we know well, but that does not mean that strangers are “bad.”

This also comes to mind when I think about my martial arts practice, To-Shin Do ninjutsu, which has a 14-point Code of Mindful Action. We recite it at the beginning of each training session, as shown here at Chapel Hill Quest Martial Arts:

Each of the 14 points contains a contrasting set of ideas, one to do and one to avoid, such as:

“I protect life and health. I avoid violence whenever possible.”

“I respect the property and space of all. I avoid taking what has not been offered.”

[An-Shu Stephen K. Hayes, the founder of To-Shin Do, discusses the finer points of the 14 Point Code of Mindful action in “Consider a Code of Ethics”.]

The positive ideas and negative ideas are both explored, but the experience of saying the Code of Mindful Action feels positive to me. It is a great way to get in the right frame of mind to train. My husband Michael and I were talking about this today and he said, “I think that I have been able to train safety for 7 years thanks to the Code of Mindful Action setting the right intentions in both me and my training partners as we step onto the mat.” And as you can imagine, training safely is the name of the game for longevity in a martial art. It is fun to train hard, but personally I don’t think it is fun at all to train recklessly!

So in my life, I am thankful for the Warrior Code of Mindful Action and Kidpower’s Positive Practice Method. What are the positive examples that you can use as your guiding star in your life? From the Golden Rule on up, there are many. But in a modern world that sometimes feels flooded with negativity, it is worth seeking out the positive examples and bringing them to the forefront of our lives and our practices, for our kids and for ourselves.