| | | | |

Kindness and Empathy Is Better for Bullying Than Zero Tolerance

Reasons To Ditch Zero Tolerance Policies For Kindness And Empathy.

Bullying isn’t a word I like to use because of the negative feelings it invokes. To me tackling bullying by talking about it is unhelpful. Instead, I like to focus on the opposite – kindness and empathy!

Bullying, as we all know, remains a pervasive problem affecting students at all year levels across the globe. It can have a significant impact on confidence, academic performance, and emotional wellbeing.

Bullied children are at increased risk of depression, anger and anxiety, lower academic achievement, and dropping out of school. The results of bullying can last well into adulthood and affect many aspects of a person’s life. 

But it's not just the victims who are affected. Those who bully may also experience an increase in academic challenges, substance use, and violent behavior later in life. 


A zero tolerance bullying policy is commonly used at school to combat bullying. Many believe they are the solution but in reality, they don't address bullying issues. Students are often expelled if they are deemed a "bully" but that just moves a "problem" from one place to another and offers no support to the perpetrator. 

The American Psychological Association commissioned a zero tolerance bullying task force. While well-intentioned it revealed that the zero bullying policy could exacerbate issues rather than alleviate problems. Punitive measures were found to contribute to student alienation, anxiety, and severed positive relationships.

The study highlighted the need for a more compassionate approach. It concluded that "in general, data tended to contradict the presumptions made in applying a zero tolerance approach to maintaining school discipline and order.”

The review recommended schools "implement preventive measures that can improve school climate and improve the sense of school community and belongingness." 

Quote Left Marks

Although the research in this area is insufficiently rigorous or wide-ranging to justify strong statements, concern has been raised in the literature that zero tolerance policies may create, enhance, or accelerate negative mental health outcomes for youth by creating increases in student alienation, anxiety, rejection, and breaking of healthy adult bonds.

Are Zero Tolerance Policies Effective in Schools?
- American Psychological Association
Quote Right Marks

Build Community to Reduce Bullying

A nurturing environment where kindness and empathy flourish can significantly impact or prevent bullying.

When students get to know one another and find common ground, they feel a greater sense of belonging and support. Being part of a supportive community has a huge impact on their sense of identity, confidence, happiness, wellbeing, and academic outcomes. A positive sense of self promotes a more inclusive school atmosphere where bullying struggles to take root.

Quote Left Marks

Our results have direct implications for educational strategies. Teachers and other members of the school community should work on empathy with young people from an early age, in order to help students and reduce bullying in the classroom. This can also help prevent poor academic performance and improve personal and academic development.

Programs led by education and school professionals can help students improve their school experience, contributing to the comprehensive development of students, preventing bullying and dropping out, and improving their academic performance.

Quote Right Marks

Teach Kindness and Empathy to Build Community

Kindness promotes giving, sharing, inclusion, and understanding others to nurture positive relationships. Building empathy fosters acceptance and understanding to reduce conflict. 

Kindness provides a feel-good buzz that contributes to a positive school climate where pro-social behaviors are the norm. As students have positive experiences completing acts of kindness, they become addicted to the feeling and want to continue to spread joy.

Studies show that empathy is crucial for reducing anti-social behavior. When students participate in activities that help them understand how others feel, they become better at noticing and caring about other people's feelings and views. This is important for stopping bullying before it starts because kids who understand how their words and actions can hurt are less likely to be mean.

When kindness and empathy thrive, bullying recedes, making way for a school atmosphere where every student has the opportunity to flourish.

Quote Left Marks

Results showed how different dimensions of school climate predicted moral disengagement, empathy, and victimization, and these, in turn, predicted bullying perpetration. The results show the need to generate favorable educational environments to reduce the levels of moral disengagement and victimization and to increase empathy in students as a strategy to prevent negative consequences related to bullying.

Quote Right Marks

How to Teach Kindness and Empathy in the Classroom

Essential for teaching kindness and empathy is creating an environment where these values are modeled and celebrated. They need to be integrated into everyday activities for them to become natural and instinctive behavior.

  • Teachers can set a positive example through their own actions. Show compassion and actively listen to students' thoughts and concerns. Share how you show kindness and empathy.
  • Incorporate stories that highlight empathy and kindness. These can spark meaningful conversations and help students see the world from diverse perspectives.
  • Role-play exercises are particularly effective. They allow children to practice responding to various scenarios with empathy and understanding.
  • Create projects that focus on helping others. Whether within the school or the broader community, it can give students tangible experiences of the impact of their kindness.
  • Regularly acknowledge and praise acts of kindness and empathy to reinforce these behaviors. This encourages students to continue to offer help or support for these traits to become ingrained habits.
  • Ask students to contribute examples of kindness they've given or received. They can share the emotions they experienced and the class can offer their input. 
  • Work together as a class to brainstorm other acts of kindness or compassion that students can participate in.
The Power Of One Kindness Book By Trudy Ludwig
Growing Up With A Bucket Full Of Happiness Three Rules For A Happier Life Book
Miss Rumphius Picture Story Book

Miss Rumphius

Daily Morning Meetings To Build Empathy

Classroom circles or morning meetings are a great way to help build empathy. Daily circle time allows you to check in on student wellbeing and start conversations around any troubles or concerns.

They provide a space for students to express their emotions and create opportunities for them to observe and learn from their peers' empathetic behaviors. 

Build Community And Improve Wellbeing In The Classroom With Circles

Creating daily opportunities for students to witness their classmates actively listening and showing concern for others is invaluable for their personal growth. This process of modeling and observation plays a crucial role in shaping students' understanding of empathy and kindness.

Morning check-ins foster a sense of community and belonging within the classroom. When students feel comfortable sharing their emotions and experiences, they are more likely to connect with their peers on a deeper level. This sense of connection can contribute to a more positive and supportive classroom environment overall.

The Toothpaste Lesson

The Toothpaste life lesson for kids is an oldie but a goodie. If it hasn't made its way into your classroom yet, you're definitely missing out!

This activity is a fantastic way to kick off the school year and tackle any potential bad behavior before it starts. It's also perfect for celebrating Friendship Day or Kindness Day, or really any time you notice friendship challenges among your students.

While it's not a cure-all, it's an incredibly powerful tool for helping kids grasp the impact of their words and actions. Children get a kick out of it because it's hands-on, a little messy, and thoroughly engaging. Teachers appreciate it for its simplicity and strong message.

The Toothpaste Life Lesson For Children Show How Hurtful Words Scar Hearts.

The Crumpled Paper or Wrinkled Heart Activity

It's quite incredible how a simple crumpled-up sheet of paper can so vividly illustrate the profound effects of unkind words and actions.

The crumpled heart activity stands out as a potent yet low-prep exercise in fostering friendship and empathy. It's a favorite among elementary and middle school students, and its versatility makes it suitable for learners of all ages.

For teachers looking for effective strategies to address bullying and to promote a positive classroom environment, this lesson is a gem to have in your social-emotional learning toolkit. It powerfully demontrates the consequences of unkind behavior on wellbeing and the classroom community.

Wrinkled Heart, Crumpled Heart Or Crumpled Paper Bullying Activity. A Powerful Lesson To Teach Kids About The Devastating Effects Of Bullying.

FREE Kindness Coloring Pages!

Free Kindness Coloring Pages For Kids To Color. Download Them For Random Acts Of Kindness Day. By Ripple Kindness Sel Activities.

Introduce Loving Kindness Meditation

Have you ever explored the benefits of guided meditation in your classroom? If not, you're overlooking a powerful tool that could transform your students' experience!

Envision a quiet retreat from the daily classroom hustle, especially when students find it hard to concentrate. Guided meditation offers a peaceful escape that helps students experience some calming moments of relaxation and stress relief. 

Introducing these serene pauses into your day is simpler than you might think. A gentle voice leading a loving kindness meditation helps cultivate a classroom environment of calm, focus, and happiness to combat bad behavior.

By fostering empathy, self-awareness, and emotional regulation through guided meditation, students are less likely to engage in or be affected by bullying. They learn to approach their own feelings and those of others with kindness and understanding, creating a more inclusive and supportive classroom atmosphere. It's an invaluable strategy for nurturing not only attentive and joyful students but also compassionate individuals who contribute to a positive school culture.

Free Loving Kindness Meditation Script And Audio File For Elementary Students.

Start a Kindness Club

The impact of teaching kindness in schools is well-documented, as is the value of belonging to a group for a positive sense of community. Establishing a kindness club is an excellent strategy for merging these two mental health powerhouses. Gathering in a social setting to engage in acts of kindness not only boosts emotional health but also fosters a warm, inclusive atmosphere for all students.

In a world where competition and self-interest often overshadow compassion and cooperation, a kindness club can be a beacon of light. It offers a supportive space to discover the strength of kindness learn about empathy and compassion, and foster critical life skills that students will carry with them into the future. 

I'm passionate about the positive change a kindness club can create in fostering community spirit and nurturing positive character development. I encourage you to explore the Kindness Club post for a plethora of ideas to inspire you to get you started.

Images Of Free Kindness Club Ideas Checklist With Activities For Elementary School Children.

Special Days to Promote Kindness and Empathy

There are also lots of special days that can help you get other teachers on board to spread more kindness and empathy in your school.




Make a Friend Day



Random Acts of Kindness Day



International Stand Up to Bullying Day


Last Friday

World Compliment Day



Good Samaritan Day



Say Something Nice Day



International Friendship Day



Just Because Day



International Day of Peace



Do Something Nice Day



Make a Difference Day


Fourth Saturday

International Day Against Bullying
& Violence at School


First Thursday

World Kindness Day



International Stand Up to Bullying Day


Third Friday

Ready-Made Activities to Teach Kindness and Empathy

There are many fun and educational resources that make teaching kindness and empathy a breeze. Here are some popular choices.

Kindness Quilt

An absolute favorite is this collaborative kindness quilt bulletin board kit. It's a best seller because students feel proud to have their work displayed in such a positive way.

A Gorgeous Kindness Quilt Colored And Assembled By Primary And Elementary School Students.

Kindness quilt submitted by Karen Caswell, fourth grade teacher at Coomera Rivers State School

This patchwork quilt has 30 squares with kindness quotes as well as images and bordered squares for students to make their own patches. 

Ready-made quilt squares can be printed to use as coloring pages or students can use Google Slides™ to add their own positive messages. Kids practice writing and spelling as they write or type an inspirational quote onto a blank template and personalize their piece with a picture.

Digital And Printable Resources For A Kindness Quilt For Primary And Elementary School Students By Ripple Kindness Sel Activities.

Why This Gorgeous Collaborative Bulletin Board is Loved:

  • The positive affirmations help to shift negative thinking and are a constant reminder of good behavior, friendship, and inclusion to promote a supportive classroom community.
  • The 30 growth mindset quotes on the quilt squares trigger meaningful discussions about kindness and personal values to develop a positive outlook.
  • Coloring and personalizing quilt squares is a creative and calming brain break that develops fine motor skills, spatial awareness, and hand-eye coordination.
  • By reading, writing, and spelling out inspirational quotes or their own thoughts on kindness, students practice essential literacy skills.
  • Suitable for a wide range of grades (from 1st grade to 8th grade), it's a versatile tool for teaching social-emotional learning skills at various developmental stages.
  • Offering both printable quilt squares and a digital Google Slides™ version, it caters to different classroom needs and preferences, including remote learning.
Kindness Quilt Patch By Karen Caswell Coomera Rivers State School
Kindness Quilt Piece By Karen Caswell Coomera Rivers State School

We used this to create a Kindness quilt in our hallway and it was a big hit! The kindness quotes were great discussion points. Thank you!

Laura D - 6th Grade

My class have created this beautiful kindness quilt as part of our school's beginning of the year wellbeing focus on relationships and kindness. Every piece of the quilt is different and the words are so meaningful. We still look at it on the classroom wall from time to time, reflect and remind ourselves of the words.

Lyn C - 2nd Grade

We used this activity along with the book for our school wide kindness week initiative. Each class made their own kindness quilt and we hung them up in the halls of the school. It was a great activity and I highly recommend. 

Tandy D - 1st Grade  

Kindness Tree Collaborative Bulletin Board

This group project can be used as a grade, year level or whole school kindness initiative. Students, teachers and staff complete considered acts of kindness that they record on leaves, apples, birds, and bugs to bring your kindness tree to life. 

You can use the tree to create a powerful community event to nurture friendship, inclusion, and caring during kindness days.

Kindness Tree Bulletin Board Kit For Primary And Elementary School Hallways For Students, Teachers, And Parents To Report Acts Of Kindness By Ripple Kindness Sel Activities.

Why This Grade or Whole School Bulletin Board is Loved:

  • A kindness tree has the potential to involve and influence everyone in your school. From students and teachers, to the Principal, and even parents. Everyone works towards a common goal of making your tree bloom!
  • Participants can see the impact of their actions. The kinder they are, the bigger the tree grows.
  • Students become the champions of kindness as they encourage others to do good to add more elements to the tree.
  • There are lots of tree shapes to choose from to fit different spaces.
  • Options to print elements in color for a quick and easy display or use the outlines for students to color and personalize.
  • Students are intentional in their acts of kindness rather than using a checklist with kindness ideas provided.
Printable Resource To Make A Kindness Tree Bulletin Board For Primary And Elementary School Hallways For Students, Teachers, And Parents To Report Acts Of Kindness By Ripple Kindness Sel Activities.

Great community building resource. I really liked how it included everyone - teachers, students, parents and the Principal. Thank you. 

Samantha R - K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th Grades

I used this as a bulletin board outside my classroom. We are talking about being a kind school this year. This board is so cute and so powerful. I am thinking of doing it next year also!

Kaelene S - K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th Grades

My Kindness and Manners Count Club used this resource to celebrate National Kindness Day for our whole school. It was loved by all.

Moneta R - 3rd, 4th, 5th Grades

Kindness Cash - A Money and Classroom Behavior Management System

This is such a fun and novel way to teach about kindness, friendship, and money management! Kindness Cash can be used all year as a behavior management incentive and to build essential life skills.

Acts of kindness are provided but sheets can also be edited to include considered acts of kindness. Students decide what they do and how much cash they earn. But what makes this resource unique is how they spend their reward money. Children can use the cash they have in their "bank" on reward coupons they give away to classmates!

As students buy coupons on shopping days, they'll have to decide who will receive them and consider what they like.

Kindness Cash is a fun incentive system that requires children to be intentional in their kindness and their purchases.

Why Kindness Cash is the Ultimate Life Lesson:

  • Students learn to give as they show kindness and earn cash for coupons they give to their classmates.
  • Children learn to consider the positive character traits and actions of their classmates to select a recipient for their coupons.
  • Kindness Cash creates a buzz of excitement as students want to be kind and caring. The nicer they are, the more likely they'll be the recipient of someone's purchased coupons.
  • Students learn real-life skills like earning, saving, keeping a balance sheet, and spending all while developing positive character traits.
  • Earning cash is a fantastic motivator to get students to complete classroom jobs and follow the rules you set.
  • You'll have classroom management in the bag as students are rewarded for good behavior with this unique incentive system. 
  • This fun activity has it all. It combines altruistic giving with economics while nurturing a warm and inclusive classroom where students care about their classmates.
Kindness Cash Is A Community Building Activity Where Students Earn Cash By Doing Acts Of Kindness. They Learn About Saving, Spending And Giving As They Purchase Coupons To Give Away To Their Classmates. A Great Way To Teach Life Skills And Create A Positive Classroom Community.

I am the coordinator of an after-school program and I have been wanting to find a way to promote good choices and finances and well this was that one-stop shop for me.


This is a fantastic resource! It was easy to use and my students loved it! Thank you!

Marlayne S - 5th Grade

Brain Break Cards

Sprinkling some short brain breaks throughout the school day is pretty much a game-changer for keeping your students engaged and on their best behavior. Honestly, these breaks are a classroom must-have.

Think about it. Kids are stuck in class for a huge chunk of their day, expected to sit still and stay focused while they're reading, writing, and listening. It's little wonder that they become frustrated and start annoying one another! 

Research tells us that learning isn't as productive as it could be because students start to zone out when asked to zero in on something for too long. And here's where those brain breaks come into play — not just as a focus booster but as a secret weapon against disruptions and bullying.

Brain Breaks Cards For Elementary Students. Mindfulness And Movement Ideas For Student Wellbeing And A Positive Classroom Community.

These playful pauses can be like hitting the refresh button on attention spans. They dial down the chances of frustration and negative behavior to bubble up. Brain breaks give everyone a chance to shake out the sillies, connect in positive ways, and build a classroom vibe where kindness and cooperation crowd out the urge to act out or bully. 

There are so many fun ways you can mix things up from movement breaks to meditation but don't bend your brain trying to think of new things. This set of cards has 56 ideas you just need to print and assemble for quick and easy downtime for restless students.

There's also an outlined set for students to color and make their own personalized deck to refer to when they're feeling agitated or distracted. 

Read this post to learn more about brain breaks.

A Personalized Brain Break Card Deck For Students. They Select And Color Their Own Cards.

A Whole Year of Engaging Kindness Activities

If you're looking to save your pennies, this kindness activities bundle will save you a packet. With many of the featured resources included, you'll also discover some other staples for your social emotional toolbox. There's a lot included in this one, so I recommend you click through to check out the preview!

A Big Bundle Of Kindness Activities To Last The Whole Year. Includes Puzzles, Games, Bingo, Paper Fortune Teller, Kindness Coloring Pages, Posters, Kindness Quilt, Bulletin Boards, Kindness Craft, Kindness Cash For Classroom Management, Kindness Bookmarks And So Much More!

Kindness and empathy are the critical elements of emotional intelligence, an essential life skill. They enhance awareness of children's feelings and make them more sensitive to the emotions of others. Strong relationships between peers, and students and their teachers, acts as a protective barrier against bullying.

Bullying a multi-faceted problem no one’s going to solve overnight but if we all do our bit to create awareness and educate students, we have the power to make a substantial difference.

How do you use kindness and empathy at your school? Let me know what works for you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *