Components of Sparky Tales

The following items have been incorporated into Sparky Tales:

  • Utilizes Ohio’s New Learning Standards
  • Integrates the Common Core Standards
  • Aligns with Healthcare Reform
  • Includes American School Counseling Association Standards
  • Utilizes Brain Gym– Right/Left Brain Work
  • A Bibliotherapy-Based Interactive  Curriculum
  • Research-Based and Research Tested
  • Incorporates Saarni’s Theory of Emotional Competency
  • Creates a Role Model, an Emotion Icon for Children
  • Takes Abstract Thoughts and Applies Concrete Examples

An Iconic figure for emotions does not exist. Sparky, a 500-year old star fills this void as he helps children improve their social skills by using storytelling. In addition, the following elements have been included in the story and curriculum, further expanding the program’s breadth and depth.

That’s not fair!

The story begins “Kelly stormed into her room, threw herself down on her bed and sobbed, “I hate my miserable, rotten life. I want a new life. This one stinks!

Kelly took off her dance shoes and continued to rant and rave, ‘This isn’t fair! I should have won. Martha won because she is rich and popular. Susan won because she’s cute. I would have won, too, if I spent as many hours in front of the mirror as she does. She might as well wear MIRRORS for as much as she looks at herself. Besides, she doesn’t have to deal with curly, red hair or have a zillion freckles like I do,’ Kelly laments. ‘This just stinks.’”

Whether it’s in the classroom, a counseling session or a courtroom, the element of “unfairness” is a recurring theme and a driving source for children’s anger. Sparky Tales emphasizes in the story and curriculum that situations are inevitably unfair but our attitude about the situation is key.

It’s Your Fault!  The process of emotional experiencing

The emotional complex of anger. Research findings indicate that blame is an independent and powerful predictor of anger. Lee, Kam, & Bond, conducted and confirmed prior research and explored how interpersonal conflict leads to the experience of two emotional complexes anger and worry. First, being harmed by another often leads to the experience of anger, but the level of anger experienced depends on the target’s judgment of the harm-doer’s intention, the controllability of the harmful act, the intensity of the harm inflicted as well as the justifiability and fairness of the act. All of one’s perceived image loss and blame judgments were found to predict the emotional complex of anger, while image loss and the perceived harm to the relationship predicted the emotional complex of worry.

Qualifying Anger. Research has repeatedly shown that one of the crucial factors in qualifying the anger response is that of blame or responsibility for an unpleasant event. (Kuppens, P, 2004) Identifying which traits predispose individuals to experience anger in which situations can provide useful information for prevention and intervention programs aimed at altering the disruptive impact of anger. This concept was a critical component in the development of Sparky Tales.

An assignment of blame is assumed to lie at the core of the experience of anger, directing the mobilized energy that accompanies it towards the source of frustration. Although anger is prototypically regarded as resulting from someone else’s wrongdoing, people can also experience anger when one is responsible for a frustrating event. Furthermore, situations can be ambiguous with respect to who is responsible for what has happened. Such circumstances are considered to be highly diagnostic for individual differences in angry and aggressive responding (e.g., Orobio de Castro, Veerman, Koops, Bosch & Monshouwer, 2002).

Increasing Awareness of Emotions, Particularly the Emotion of Anger

(The National Wellness Institute Conference, 1998) emphasized that in order to change behavior, awareness must first increase.  (Pardeck, 1995) Using bibliotherapy increases insight as the students are able to identify their own feelings help clients verbalize their thoughts and feelings and learn new ways to cope with problems.

Increasing Awareness of How Anger Affects Their Relationships

Most children involved in the Court and many in the classroom are not aware of their anger. Consequently, they are unable to make the connection as to how their anger is affecting them or their relationships. Some individuals do not have access to information or experiences to make an evaluation about how their behaviors affect their relationship (Wubbolding, 2000). For example, individuals raised in violent homes may not be able to distinguish between neutral and threatening events. (DeBaryshe and Fryxell, 1998) Considerable evidence shows that marital conflict co-occurs with child dysfunction. Conflict between parents, whether in intact or divorced families, is a risk factor for externalizing and internalizing behavior problems, low school achievement and low social competence. Additionally children exposed to frequent parental conflict at home appear to be most sensitive to adult anger. As with younger children, early adolescents report stronger negative reactions, including anger, fear, sadness, and shame as adult conflict intensity increases. Intensity increases children’s judgments that the conflict could escalate and that the child may be blamed and/or drawn in. Individuals with an early childhood history of drugs, physical and mental abuse, or inconsistent parenting in their home, may not know or understand “acceptable or “normal” behavior. Behaviors may be chosen to meet a short-term sense of happiness over long-term goals.

Children’s awareness and understanding of their own and other people’s anger depends on exposure to models of anger expression and conflict resolution, parental emotional coaching strategies such as discussing feelings and problem solving about emotion-based actions, coercive versus authoritative parenting practices and opportunities to engage in constructive conflict resolution with family members. Emotional socialization in the home affects children’s physiological reactivity and physiological self-regulation, social information processing and behavioral strategies for anger-provoking situations. When the child brings these characteristics into the peer arena, anger and emotion management skills affect peer social status, aggressive versus prosocial interactions and the ability to form and profit from close peer relationships.

Winning Isn’t Everything

The bibliotherapy was originally written so that Kelly won the final dance competition but was rewritten after receiving feedback from a family whose child was physically and emotionally challenged. Their child was unable to win in a competition but he had a winning attitude in spite of his circumstances. The story emphasizes that shining like a star (Donovan, T., 2004) is about having a winning attitude.