Develop strong girls and boys – free exercise

Develop strong girls and boys – free exercise
May 30, 2019 Niels van Hove

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My first children’s book, My Strong Mind, was published in October 2017. I wrote it based on stories from my two girls, who were aged 6 and 8 back then. I wanted them to become strong girls! I published My Strong Mind II in August 2019, to help develop strong boys!

Based on my book I created a My Strong Mind school program to develop mental toughness in primary school teachers and students. My program has shown measurable progress in mental toughness as you can read in this case study.

In a series of blogs, I will share some of the evidence-based exercises I use in my school program.

The 4 Cs of mental toughness can be described as:

  • Commitment: I promise to do it. I will set a goal and do whatever it takes to deliver.
  • Control: I really believe I can do it. I will keep my emotions in check when doing it.
  • Challenge: I’m driven to do it. I will take chance and acceptable risk. Setbacks will make me stronger.
  • Confidence: I believe I have the ability to do it. I can stand my ground if I need to.

Or in graph form:

In this blog I will share a Control exercise that goes nicely together with my book.

Control means having a sense of self-worth and describes the extent to which a person feels in control of their life and their circumstances. Also, importantly it describes the extent to which they can control the display of their emotions.

Someone who measures high on control typically is pro-active, takes ownership and action, whilst staying calm under pressure or during stressful situations. They can easily let go of issues that are out of their control.

Exercise approach

Read My Strong Mind and introduce the 4Cs 

  • Read My Strong Mind with the children, so they can relate with Kate further in the exercise.
  • You can download the 4C overview here and have a short conversation with the children about what every C could mean.

Introduce the Control exercise

  • This exercises helps children to ‘scale’ their problems. Children can often respond dis-proportionally to an issue.
  • Explain to the children that there are different levels of problems, which require different responses. Little problems (I can’t find my bag or drink bottle, I’m hungry) can be solved alone or with little help. Bigger problems (Someone’s hurt, sick, bullied or in danger) require adult help.

 Do the exercise

  • Download the exercise here, print it and hand out.
  • Discuss what can be done in every situation and how children can react.
  • What type of problems have happened to you this week?
  • What problems did you solve yourself?
  • What problems did you need help with?
  • Give the children time enough to complete.


  • What occurred? What difference did that make?
  • How did I feel. Has my mood changed?
  • What did I learn? Could I do it differently next time?
  • Where else can I apply this?

Hope you enjoy the exercise. Let me know how it went.

All the best,