Bullying is often a hot topic among parents and teachers. It has been for as long as I can remember and sadly, not a lot has changed. But, I feel we are starting to make some headway with educators now using social and emotional learning programs in their classrooms to build emotional intelligence.

I've been advocating for kindness to be taught in schools for around a decade now. For me, it has always made sense because kindness is the antithesis of bullying. It stands to reason that infecting a school with the kindness bug is going to have a positive effect on children who struggle with antisocial behaviour. A kind majority will eventually have an impact on an unfriendly minority. 

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Whether you're looking to build character at home or in the classroom, recognised kindness days are a great time to start a kindness campaign.

Kindness is a good old-fashioned value that does a lot more than just build character. Did you know that it can also:

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The crumpled paper lesson is a very powerful bullying activity which we believe was originally used by a teacher in New York to show her students the lasting impact that anti-social and cruel behaviour can have.

We love this bullying lesson but adapted it to use in conjunction with our primary and elementary school curriculum during assemblies and in the classroom. We substituted a plain piece of paper for a red heart or cut-out of a person (an activity in the curriculum for older students) to make it more relatable for younger kids.

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Enemy Pie Book Review

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Enemy Pie

Derek Munson

Tara King

4 - 10 years

Friendship, Problem-Solving, Bullying, Judgement, Respect

Story overview

The story is narrated by a young boy. He was looking forward to a really great summer. That was until Jeremy Ross moved into the neighborhood!!

After laughing at him when he struck him out at baseball and not inviting him to his trampoline party, Jeremy Ross became the first person on the boy's enemy list. 

He talked to his dad about his problem. His dad said he has a sure fire but secret way of getting rid of enemies. Enemy Pie!!

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Teaching character traits at home and in the classroom

It’s a given that most parents want their children to grow up with good values and character traits. Kindness, compassion, perseverance and honesty are just some of the traits we want to instill in our kids. But how are character traits developed?


Charles Starkey, Associate Professor of Philosophy studies emotion theory and moral psychology. He says that character traits are determined by our values but that emotions also play a huge role. In short, kids need emotional intelligence and to see positive character traits in others to adopt them.

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Image of students hugging with caption students spread kindness to build character and reduce bullying

Bostian Elementary in North Carolina is a school that cares about building character and empowering students with kindness and empathy. I recently connected with 4th Grade Teacher, Donna Rymer about the great work the teachers are doing to make kindness the norm in their school.

Donna explained that they saw a problem in the world with a lack of kindness contributing to sadness, and saw a need to bring happiness and compassion back. They decided they needed to start in their school and launched their kindness initiative to encourage more empathy and ensure less anti-social behaviour. 

Their campaign was triggered by a conversation she had with a colleague who had been given a wristband by a kindness ambassador. They decided to invite Rebecca Sutton from The Kindness Revolution to speak to their grade 4 students. Once they heard her speak they were convinced that they needed to expand on her presentation and turn it into a full-blown PBL (Project Based Learning) to reach the whole school and community.

Donna was keen to share how staff and students have worked to promote kindness in the hopes that it will inspire other teachers to also start a kindness initiative at their school. 

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Experts advocate for teaching kindness and empathy in schools to reduce bullying. Why? Because kindness is the antithesis of bullying and empathy is the foundation of kindness.  

Being kind means that you consider the needs, feelings and concerns of others to ensure you act appropriately. Having empathy means you're able to put yourself in someone's shoes to understand their needs, feelings and concerns. 

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Images of trees made from paper with wording 34 Inspiration Kindness Trees building character in schools.

A Kindness Tree is a creative and beautiful way to encourage and acknowledge acts of kindness within a school. As a whole school project, it's a heartwarming way to help foster kind, supportive relationships amongst students and teachers. Watching the tree come to life as good deeds are added creates positive and uplifting feelings and behaviour, making it a highly effective way to build character and reduce bullying.

As you'll see by the examples below there are many variations, some big, some small, but each one beautiful and unique. There are no rules when it comes to creating your kindness tree. Use your imagination and encourage student involvement. For the tree itself, you can use paper, fabric, paint, crepe paper or real tree branches. Tree leaves upon which kind deeds are written can be made from paper or card in the shape of leaves, hearts or even hands.

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Book cover with a girl looking triumphant with her dog. The words reflections and video reading by the authors Rose and Hope McCallum.

Book Title:  The Watermelon Shield

Authors:  Rose and Hope McCallum

Illustrator:  mikemotz.com

For ages:  6-10 years (a good read for all ages)

Topics:  bullying, kindness, compassion, empathy, character development, juvenile self-help

Related learning areas:  social and emotional learning (SEL), well-being/self-confidence, communication/healthy boundaries

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Five children lying together on the ground with text next to image saying tracking student relationships to improve well-being and reduce bullying.

How important are relationships in education? 

Rita Pierson, in her classic TEDTalk, says “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” I thoroughly agree and I would like it mandated that every teacher watches her talk every year!

I want to expand her sentiment to include student to student relationships.

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Aaron Stark had a painful and abusive childhood which almost ended in tragedy at his school. It was a not so extraordinary act of kindness and a strong and understanding childhood friend that changed his destructive mindset and saved his life.

After a decade of recovery and sharing his story, Aaron has been able to put the past behind him and dedicate himself to his family. He’s a man on a mission to use his very personal story of triumph to help other young people feeling lost and confused walk into the light. He wants to reassure those who are suffering that there are people who care and that they’re not alone.

This video highlights the importance of seeing and helping children in pain. Please do not see those who bully, those who are quiet and introverted or those who are needy as children who are trying to push your buttons. Take some time to investigate and find out how their needs are not being met and how you can make a difference.

Phrases like "random acts of kindness" and "pay it forward" have become popular terms in modern society. There are even special days dedicated to performing good deeds and organisations who specialise in altruism.

But why has kindness become so popular? Perhaps it's best explained by those who have identified a deficit in their lives that can only be filled by giving.

Science proves there are good reasons why so many of us can't get enough of those addictive, feel-good emotions and explains why kindness is important with evidence of many physical, emotional, and mental health benefits. But of great significance for schools, it's a powerful and free resource to reduce anti-social and bullying behaviour.

"Unlike previous generations, today's adolescents are victimizing each other at alarming rates leading adults to ask why."
Shanetia Clark and Barbara Marinak

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