When Suzanne Tucker was teaching a positive parenting class nearly six years ago, little did she know that a mom’s testimony would inspire the infrastructure for an e-commerce website and a community that extends around the globe.
“At the end of the class a mom shared that she had almost lost it on her kid the night before,” recalls Tucker. “She was going to hit him.”
The mom told Tucker, “I was going to lose it, but I didn’t. I heard you in my head. And I heard you saying, ‘Connect before you correct.’
“I just kept saying it over and over again like a mantra.”
That single moment was a game changer.
“She was crying,” says Tucker. “Everyone in the class was crying, and she’s like, ‘I don’t know how it happened, but I want to do it again. She said, ‘I want to teach my husband, and I want to teach my kid’s teacher. How do I do it?’
“I said, ‘I don’t know, but I’m gonna figure it out.’”
Tucker went home that night and put her nearly 30 years of experience as a parent educator and physical therapist to work.
“It was really that experience that helped me see what was needed,” says Tucker. “That night I created our first product, PeaceMakers Mindfulness Cards. They’re like mantra cards. The whole idea is that thoughts become words and actions.”
When Tucker developed the PeaceMakers Mindfulness Cards, she simultaneously launched Generation Mindful, which she sees as so much more than just a collection of products.
“The mission of Generation Mindful is to raise an emotionally healthy world,” says Tucker. “We make tools, toys and classes that teach and nurture emotional intelligence. And our real focus is mainstreaming early emotional education.”
Tools for emotional health are something society is seeing the need for now more than ever, with the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association declaring the mental health of children and adolescents a national emergency.
“We are in a mental health crisis where children are feeling more anxious and depressed than ever,” says Tucker. “And we feel like we know why — and that’s because adults today were not given any kind of emotional education. We know from brain science that positive discipline nurtures emotional intelligence. Yet, if you look at our generation, nobody was raised with positive discipline. It wasn’t mainstream. So at Generation Mindful, we are bringing brain science into everyday life.”
And they’re doing so through practical, playful, easy-to-use tools: like SnuggleBuddies, super soft plush toys that teach kids the four main mood groups, and the Time-In ToolKit, which provides a framework for adults on how to implement positive discipline.
“The Time-In Toolkit is literally a kit with everything you need. It comes to your door to create a calming space in your home and to start using time-ins and teaching social emotional skills instead of using timeouts and punishment,” says Tucker. “Positive discipline is skill-building, instead of negatively enforcing or punishing children for not having skills that they’re not even supposed to have yet.”
However, children technically aren’t the only students of this strategy.
“You were taught the ABCs and the one, two, threes, but do you know the four mood groups? Probably not,” says Tucker. “Do you know the four components of emotional intelligence? Probably not. Imagine teaching a child to read, but they don’t know the alphabet. Kind of hard, right?
“So our job is to give you, the adult, the alphabet and teach you how to teach it to a child. We’re going to teach you so that you can model it for the child.”
Modeling healthy behaviors is especially important because of how children learn; their brains are wired to mirror the behaviors they see. However, Tucker doesn’t want parents to feel shame or fear with that knowledge, but to feel empowered by it.
“Our goal is to help empower and inspire the adults because it really can be so simple,” says Tucker. “And I think we live in this information age that makes everything hard. We are constantly bombarded with: ‘Do better, be better, be faster.’ And at Generation Mindful, our job actually is to guard the gate of information and to remind you, ‘Hey, you’ve got this. It’s so simple.
Which is exactly why Tucker believes her business has blossomed.
“I think that’s why our solutions are so beloved because they’re fun, they’re easy, they’re no-shame and they really do make connection a habit,” says Tucker. “I want every parent to know, yes, we’re in a crisis. Everyone is feeling a lot of stress, but you don’t need to protect your child from stress.
“What you want to do is give them the skills to manage stress. You can’t bubble wrap your kid and keep them away from all the stressors of life. But what you can do is give them the skills to be resilient,” Tucker continues. “And the skills to be resilient literally come from having a loving, present adult in their life and learning social emotional skills — period.”
And while its tools are terrific for teaching these skills, Generation Mindful is about more – about mindfulness as a movement, and its potential impact on society.
“Imagine one generation of well-loved, nurtured, highly emotionally intelligent children,” says Tucker. “The implications of that are so far-reaching.”
Generation Mindful has already made its way across the U.S. to countries around the globe.
“We grew from St. Louis through three different Kickstarter campaigns and have grown into a global community in more than 90 countries,” says Tucker. “And now we are launching our time-in toolkits digitally in Arabic, Mandarin, Korean — six different languages.”
She believes being based in St. Louis has played a significant role in the organization’s success.
“We are really grateful for the support that we received early on from the community,” says Tucker. “We were an Arch Grant recipient back in 2018. We just won the Capital Innovators Accelerator program. We’ve been really just a poster child of if you have an idea, St. Louis is a great place to have a startup and be supported in the development of your big idea into something sustainable.”
In 2022, Tucker hopes to reach a new audience for Generation Mindful through a YouTube show and podcast called “Teddy Talks.”
“‘Teddy Talks’ is sharing big ideas with little ears,” says Tucker. “We are having our child psychologist Dr. Rebecca Branstetter and her childhood bestie, her little teddy bear Grizzlette, which was really actually her teddy bear when she was 6 years old. Those are our co-hosts and they’ll interview experts on different topics that are hard to talk about with kids.”
They plan to launch a Kickstarter campaign in February to support the show.
“Having the groundswell, the grassroots way that we’ve grown, is why we are an international company and a movement,” says Tucker. “It means everything to me, and it’s actually still the way we want to grow. We believe in grassroots movements.”
Which, like all great things, Tucker knows takes time.
“We understand that the real power for change is going to come through the generations,” says Tucker. “That’s why we’re Generation Mindful. It’s not about mindful kids. This is intergenerational — and if we mainstream positive discipline, that will change the world.”