I constantly research and try to stay in touch with what's happening in the world of kindness. During one of my web surfing sessions, I came across some advice in a school newsletter by Tanya Uren, principal at Kingston Primary School in Western Australia.
I love that she encourages her whole school community to show kindness and prompts parents to nurture it at home. I felt it is something that other schools may also like to highlight in their communication to parents so I asked Tanya if she minded me sharing her insights with you below.
Sometimes when we get busy it can affect the people around us – at home, school and the wider community. It can start with not making time to stop, listen and appreciate others. When we are busy our tone of voice can change and words that have no mean intent can come across as harsh or uncaring. This can snowball and relationships can become strained.
One way to stop this is to deliberately pause, breathe, give ourselves a break and practice kindness to all. Remember, no act of kindness is too small, and every act of kindness sends endless ripples out into the world.
One of the easiest acts of kindness is to use good manners and respect with others – and it doesn't cost a thing!!
Talk About Kindness
Here are some discussion points to help you talk about kindness with your child. Good questions include:
- Tell me about a time when someone was kind to you. How did it make you feel?
- What do you think kindness means and why is it important?
- Who is someone in your class you can be kind to? How?
- What are ways you can be kind to people at home, at school and in the community?
With kindness and care being a focus of mine I began researching to learn more. I found that there is a direct link between increasing empathy and increasing prosocial behaviour, decreasing bullying and also decreasing rates of depression and anxiety. I was still stumped as to why if people value care and kindness why is there so much negativity? Here is a summary of what I discovered.
Why So Much Negativity?
Evolution has primed our brain, and specifically the amygdala, to have a negativity bias. At one time this bias was necessary for survival – I need to know where that dangerous animal is!
The amygdala is the brain’s alarm centre, with strong connections to our emotions and memories. The amygdala uses about ⅔ of its neurons to watch for negative experiences and once found, these experiences are stored quickly. Positive memories and experiences, on the other hand, are much slower to store, often have less intense body sensations, and need more repetition to “stick.”
My goal is to promote acts of kindness in the classrooms and school-wide. Acts of kindness can benefit the person sharing kindness, the recipients, and also anyone who witnesses these acts. We need to talk about how experiencing kindness can feel in the body. Being connected to and aware of how our body feels during positive experiences is an important part of moving our brain’s bias from negative to positive. Kindness is like the reverse of bullying.
Kindness is a Practice
As with any new habit, this kindness focus takes practice, reminders, modelling and celebrations of success. We frequently revisit kindness and caring at school. Students are encouraged to continue to notice and share kindness throughout the school day with staff and peers. We celebrate and notice how it feels to be kind and to see kindness in action.
The negativity bias is part of our human evolution, but every day we have the chance to change this, one kind act at a time.
Below is a Kindness Checklist that you may wish to use at home.
Kindness Tip for Principals
I also do cupcakes for caring where students are nominated by staff for showing genuine caring and kindness around the school. They receive a certificate and we have cupcakes together once a fortnight.