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Mei Lin TRASHCANSOne of our most famous techniques, the Kidpower Trash Can, was born in 1991, when I was teaching in a first grade classroom and explaining to children that they could protect themselves from hurting words instead of taking them into their heads or their hearts, where they can get stuck for a really long time.

Their talented teacher, Mary D. Geyer, said, “We need to give children something to do with their bodies to help them remember to do this with their minds.” She put a hand on her hip to make a trash can, and we all used our other hands first, to catch and throw away the hurting words, and then, to put kind words into our hearts.

We immediately incorporated the Kidpower Trash Can into our curriculum for children. We discovered that, as self-defense instructors, this was the technique that we were personally using the most to protect ourselves, not just from the unkind things that others say, but also from the unkind things that we say to ourselves. This is why we decided to teach it to everyone.

Since then, millions of people from around the world have found that the Kidpower Trash Can works for them too.

Sometimes teens and adults need an intellectual framework for why this works. We tell them, “Imagine that someone was throwing real trash at you. Taking in real trash would be unsafe, so you catch it, throw it in the trash, and then take care of yourself by washing your hands. Hurting words can be like trash. Instead of letting trash inside, you can catch it, throw it away, and then take care of yourself by replacing the hurting words with kind words.”

Here are two resources to show how to teach the Kidpower Trash Can:

  • Use the download link above for a PDF of our Kidpower Trash Can for Throwing Away Hurting Words – a cartoon-illustrated excerpt from our curriculum.
  • View this video: PuppetPower – The Kidpower Trash Can

And here’s how adults, teens, and kids can use the Trash Can and other Kidpower skills to unlearn negative self-talk: Unsafe Words We Use On Ourselves.

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Published: March 12, 2014   |   Last Updated: August 1, 2016

Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People, and the Amazon Best Seller Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.


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