Can kindness be taught? 

While researching for our school curriculum many years ago, I came across the work of Maurice J. Elias, a Professor of Psychology. His view about kindness being a teachable quality mirrors my own and like me, he's a huge advocate for teaching it in schools. 

Like me, he believes that children have an emotional response to kindness but that emotionally intelligent kids have a better understanding of the feelings they're experiencing. 

"Kindness depends also on possessing certain learnable skills, and these are included in most evidence-based efforts to promote children's social-emotional and character development."
- Maurice Elias

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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. Research shows there are many physical, emotional, and mental health benefits associated with kindness. 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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When I teach Kindergarten or first-grade children, I always teach my students a little song called “Five Little Bluebirds”. I developed some motions for the song, and always end this subtraction-type song by making a very sad face and saying, “No little bluebirds in the nest.” The kids find this hysterical!

We sing the song through a second time with them joining in with more enthusiasm, and I can see in their mischievous eyes that they cannot wait until we get to the last line and they get to see my sad face AND make a sad face of their own. They laugh with their entire bodies, as 5 and 6-year olds are prone to do - and yes, that means some of them end up “prone” as they fall over on the carpet with laughter.

Whether you teach your children a song like that, or find some other way to introduce emotions, you can lead them to discover their Superpower.

I ask them to show me their sad face. Show me their surprised face! Show me their sleepy face. Show me their angry face! And finally, show me their happy face! Then I tell them that we are going to do a trick.

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The power of classroom circles for fostering emotional intelligence, improving well-being and creating a culture of kindness is well documented. Circles are important tools for nurturing relationships and feelings of community and can be used in any classroom.

Schools with a focus on social and emotional learning (SEL) often use circles to help build a positive culture to reduce bullying. Circles work because they help all children to feel loved and encouraged while creating bonds between peers. They are especially important for nurturing feelings of belonging, acceptance and stability in troubled children.

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Most children enjoy being creative with pencils and crayons. But did you know there are an impressive number of reasons why both kids and adults should partake in this peaceful pastime? 

The significant benefits of coloring are now being realised for all age groups as it takes its place alongside yoga and meditation as an enjoyable way of improving mental and physical well-being.

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Our elementary school serves approximately 800 students PreK-3rd grades.

The week of February 11th, 2018 happened to be “Random Acts of Kindness Week” so I challenged the staff to a Kindness Challenge — I challenged them to complete these simple, kind acts that would make our students’ and colleagues’ days just a bit brighter!

little-star Complete a challenge – mark it off on the challenge sheet
little-star Each challenge completed earned a TICKET in the raffle
little-star Earn an EXTRA TICKET for each challenge that is completed and shared on social media with the challenge hashtag
little-star The WINNER of the raffle… earned a HALF DAY OFF!

This also rewarded me with an amazing opportunity to sub in the classroom for the winning teacher. - Melissa Kartsimas, JF Kennedy Elementary

This is a powerful activity to use in the classroom at any time a student is in need of some extra love and care or as a focus activity during International Day of Friendship. It’s one we’ve included in the Ripple Kindness Project for Schools primary and elementary curriculum as it can have such an incredibly positive impact on children who are being acknowledged and complimented. read more →

Kindness Trees are a beautiful way to focus on and acknowledge the importance of showing kindness within a school. The tree helps foster kind, supportive relationships amongst students and teachers, and everyone loves to watch the tree “grow” as each good deed is recognized. read more →

From the Author
     – Jayneen Sanders


Book Title:
 You, Me and Empathy

Illustrator: Sofia Cardoso

For Ages: 3-9

Categories: empathy, compassion, kindness, anti-bullying, friendship

Related learning areas: Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)

Review of book: Click here for a book reading and review


About the book

‘You, Me and Empathy’ uses verse, beautiful illustrations and a little person called Quinn to model the meaning of empathy. Throughout the story, Quinn shows an abundance of understanding, compassion and kindness towards others. Showing empathy towards others is a learned trait and one to nurture and cherish with the children in our care. read more →

Book Title: You, Me and Empathy

Author: Jayneen Sanders

Illustrator: Sofia Cardoso

For Ages: 3-9

Category: empathy, compassion, kindness, diversity, tolerance, respect, character

Related learning areas: Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), feelings awareness, writing

A word from the author: Click here to view pages, resources and hear from the author


About the book

In this gem, young readers are invited to explore their feelings and discover their ability to understand not only their own emotions but also the feelings of others. Written in first-person narrative with every-day examples of situations that might cause uncomfortable feelings like worry, anger, sadness, or fright, this text with reflection questions sprinkled throughout is sure to spark and ignite some dynamic conversations about empathy, compassion and kindness.  read more →

I am crazy about kindness. Sharing it, spreading it, promoting it, talking about it, practicing it, blogging about it, teaching it, quoting it, buying t-shirts about it… crazy. about. kindness.

I am SO crazy about it that I felt the need to come up with a unique way to share this passion with my students and to practice kindness in a way that they would remember forever. I wanted to not only read cutesy little books about being kind (even though one of my favourite books is “What Does it Mean to Be Kind”) or practice kindness within the fours walls of our classroom (our number one rule in the class is “Be Kind”) or watch videos about examples of kindness (even though I always love me a good ugly cry kindness story on Ellen…). I wanted to LIVE kindness in our community. I wanted people to think about kindness and associate it with my kiddos and be hopeful that a bunch of 4, 5 and 6-year-olds could change the world. I wanted my learners to know that there are some lessons that aren’t in the curriculum but that will be important to them for the rest of their lives. From that place, Kindness Capes (#kindnesscapes) was born. read more →

 

This inspirational video has a wonderful message to inspire children and help them see their worth. Show this video by Meir Kay to demonstrate to your children or students that no matter what happens in life, they are worthy and valuable members of society. read more →