In Be Bigger, a girl's feelings are hurt because she thinks her friend ignored her on purpose. As she plans to exclude her friend from a party, a wise old tree helps the girl realize that she is actually trying to get even with her friend. She's trying to hurt her friend in return because she his feeling hurt. (SEL/ Character Topics include relational aggression bullying, kindness, respect, self-awareness, positive relationships)
The tree uses a story about the girl's grandmother (who was in a similar situation when she was young) to show the girl she is not alone in facing these friendship troubles. By the grandmother's example, the tree teaches the girl how to resolve conflict in a more positive way- by talking to her friend directly. (SEL / Character topics: conflict resolution, empathy, caring, respect)
When the girl feels that talking things through with her friend will be too hard, the tree helps the girl build her self confidence to face the challenge. She shows the child that there's "the easy way and the right way." Taking the easy way out (avoiding the problem) might feel better in the short term, but doing the right thing (talking to her friend) will feel better long term when she has her good friend back. (SEL /Character issues: self-esteem, self-confidence, perseverance, resilience)
(Help children notice the clues their body gives them to help them sort out their feelings. You can also refer to other descriptions or pictures in the book to compare anger, sadness, pride. SEL Topics: self-awareness)
When your heart and stomach are tied up in knots, your body is telling you that something isn't right. It's a good idea to try to figure out what is making your heart and stomach so uneasy. Maybe there's something you are sad about, or worried about.
(Self esteem and self confidence come from children knowing they can make choices that are in-line with their values. Feeling "right" about how you behave helps kids build confidence and self esteem. SEL / Character topics: respect for self and others, caring, self-management. More on the connection between self esteem and making good choices.)
No matter how tall (or little) someone is, they can "be bigger". Being bigger means that even though you are feeling hurt or angry, you don't have to react out of hurt and anger. You can be like a superhero who does what's right, treating others respectfully, even though it can be hard. Your reward is in knowing you did the right thing. You can't control how other people act, but you can feel good about how you react.
(Help children see the cycle that comes from hurt feelings and retaliation. Feeling left out or excluded doesn't feel good to anyone- it's a form of bullying called relational aggression. SEL / Character topics: respect, caring, forgiveness, empathy)
When Gran's feelings were hurt, she hurt her friend right back. Then her friend's feelings were hurt and she hurt Gran again. The hurt feelings just kept building on each other until each girl shared how she was feeling and sorted what was really going on. Because both girls talked respectfully about how they felt, they were able to work through the issues instead of causing more hurt feelings.
(Explore this topic in terms of talking to friends or others with respect, but also more broadly as a guiding principle for how to make wise choices. SEL/ Character topics: self management, perseverance, growth mindset)
Kids face lots of situations when they might not be sure what to do. Maybe you saw someone saying something about a friend that you knew wasn't true, maybe you saw someone cheating, maybe you'd rather skip doing your homework because you aren't sure what the teacher wanted you to do. There are lots of times when you may have to make tough choices about how to handle situations. Even though doing the right thing might be harder right now, in time, your heart will feel a lot better for having made a good choice.