There is no doubt that every parent wants the best for their child and this incorporates helping them to grow up to be well-rounded individuals, which includes fostering an inherent culture of kindness. From an early age, children tend to be naturally kind to one another. However, unfortunately, as humans, it is a character trait which can quickly be lost due to the environment which we grow up in. Children need to be kind to their peers, to teachers and all around them, and sometimes this is something that as a society, we need to cultivate.
As a leading kindergarten in Bangkok, we intentionally create a culture which helps to nurture kindness. We believe that this encourages empathy and understanding, something which will help them to form stronger and deeper relationships. As these relationships build, it naturally creates trust between individuals, and this will help pupils to feel genuinely valued, which, in turn, forges a healthy culture for learning. These are all skills that will be invaluable not only throughout their school life but also at university and in adulthood.
Here are ten techniques which we suggest for helping to teach kindness in children of all ages.
1. Be a good role model
From the day that a child is born and in their early formative years, much of a child’s learning will be done from watching and copying others. It is, therefore, vital that as parents, carers and educators, we set a good example and that we are kind to others. For example, in schools, we have different people supporting the children throughout the day such as teachers, teaching assistants, or nannies, and we make a point of thanking them for everything that they do in front of the pupils. As children replicate what we do, they soon start doing the same, initially thanking staff and developing into a pattern that then continues with their peers and others who are part of their day.
As parents, we should be kind to others at home and respectful to others when you go out. Of course, this is something that you will do naturally, but it is something that initially, you should exaggerate so that your child notices and follows your lead. All children look to role models, so it is crucial that as teachers and parents, we set a good example.
2. Empathy with intentionality
Learning to see things from another person’s perspective is a skill that we should all learn to master, but unfortunately, it is something that can be easier said than done. Some of you may be familiar with “The 7 Habits of Happy Kids”, and one of the habits is learning to be kind to others. It is particularly relevant when it comes to dealing with conflict and relates to the popular Franklin Covey expression “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood” you can do this and see things from another person’s perspective, even if you don’t necessarily agree, it will help you have empathy with their feelings.
3. Kindness Week
Kindness Week, which is celebrated in February, can give you ideas about what activities you could include to promote kindness. Although integrating kindness teaching and actions is something we endeavour to include in the daily routine, some of the ideas behind Kindness Week are beneficial. We would prefer to include activities such as helping a friend tidy up, helping a peer to fasten their shoes or generally do something nice for another person may be beneficial in some circumstances, rather than offering gifts or presents.
These Random Acts of Kindness (RAKs) are popular with children, and it can be a fun exercise with all the teachers joining in. While it is fun, it does carry a serious message in that we should always be kind to each other, and when we are, we are all happier and relaxed.
4. Encourage discussions
Even in younger children, you can arrange meetings where students talk about something that has happened to them, for example, over the weekend. The story may be fun or sad, but the other students are encouraged to listen and ask questions. Teachers can also become involved if none of the students has a story to tell. It helps to form bonds, but it also helps to encourage understanding and empathy of their peers.
If you have pupils in your class from different countries, cultures or backgrounds, you can encourage them to tell others about their experiences. It will help to breed greater tolerance which is excellent for building trust, breaking down barriers and with it, relationships. It will allow students to appreciate others and accept differences along with deepening their learning experience. Over time, this will hopefully help to build a stronger community and a better society for us all.
5. Focus on building friendships
We want our children to be kind to everyone, and creating an environment where students can quickly form friendships will help to facilitate this. A common saying in classrooms, especially with younger students is “We are all friends”. An exercise could be to look at what friends do for one another and what friends like to do together. Encourage the children to speak, and you will have some fantastic insights into how children feel and think! Friendship is all about listening to others so this needs to be stressed throughout the exercise to stop it from descending into chaos.
6. Have a Kindness Centre
As friendship is such an integral part of kindness, one possibility that you could explore is to develop a “Kindness Centre” where children are encouraged to form friendships, perhaps in pairs. One student talks or reads from a book about something do with friendships and how friends help each other.
After a certain time, ten minutes, for example, the class sits down and discusses what they have learned. As a teacher, we encourage students to focus on positive sentiments. Areas which you could then discuss as a group are:
- Friends encouraging each other
- Friends showing respect
- Friends showing patience
- Friends understanding personal space
As a follow-up exercise, you could consider how friends show compassion and recognise as well as respect that everyone is different. It is an opportunity to explore a multitude of other avenues all connected to promoting kindness.
7. Set challenges to spread happiness
Students of all ages enjoy being set challenges. One game that can be played amongst younger pupils is to conduct an act of kindness for one of their peers. The recipient then has to pass on the action to another classmate, and so it goes around until the person who performed the first act of kindness has one bestowed on them. Each student should have completed at least one act during the game.
8. Exercises to promote health and happiness
With mental health being something that we are all becoming increasingly aware of, the act of being kind has been proven to offer several mental and physical health benefits. RAKs are known to release a hormone known as oxytocin which is directly linked to happiness and can reduce our levels of stress. By allowing enough time each day in the classroom, we can encourage altruistic actions which will improve overall health. It could be helping another student who doesn’t understand something or just listening to their stories.
9. Use social stories such as solving problems
Regardless of where you come from in the world, there will always be some social stories that encourage metacognitive thoughts about problems encountered. Stories such as Daniel Tiger and Pinkalicious are thought-provoking and can evoke empathy. As a class, you can discuss how the characters are feeling and play games where they take on roles within the story. It helps them to understand and put feelings into context as well as promoting acts of kindness.
10. Teach and encourage action
In younger children, it is quite common for them to be able to recognise that someone has a problem, and while they want to be kind and offer help, they may not know how to. Although every scenario is different, and it is impossible to cover every eventuality, using role-play games can help to empower students to use their initiative if they ever encounter a similar situation.
Of course, becoming involved in community projects is another way to teach kindness and encourage empathy. The objective is to make students realise that what they are doing is having a positive difference to the lives of others and with it; they should find this very rewarding. Depending on children’s ages, it could involve tidying a street or park close to the school or sending cards to an orphanage. It is a practice that not only teaches the importance of kindness but helps to foster critical thinking skills which will be needed throughout their lives.
At Kidz Village, we want to create a culture within our kindergarten that the students grow-up to be doers and enjoy helping others. It will make them more rounded and better individuals, something that as parents, we all want to see.
Did you find our article interesting?
We hope that this article and helped explain why kindness is so important as well as ways in which kindness can be taught. At Kidz Village, compassion is a topic that we feel passionate about and believe it forms a vital part of their education. Our acclaimed International School in Bangkok strives to provide the ideal environment to promote learning. For more information, please call us on +66 2888 3337 and we will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.