Why We Aren’t Kind: Bullies and Empathy


There are days, when even the kindest folks falter. There are days, when we make mistakes and stray from our best selves, maybe with a snarky remark, unkind words, or with gossip and criticism. We all make mistakes and by taking responsibility for our actions and making amends we can move forward and start again.

Sometimes however we run into folks who are unkind more often than they are kind. Sometimes we find ourselves face to face with someone who treats us unfairly with an aim to hurt us. We ask ourselves, why do they want to cause me pain? What did I do? The answer is that it’s really not about you. It’s about them, and only about them.

I believe we are born kind, and we learn hate. With that being said it’s hugely important to remember that a bully has most likely been bullied by someone else. They learned to do it somewhere, from someone. It’s not an excuse for their behavior but it’s an explanation.

We can teach our children to respond to unkindness with empathy and action. We do not need to let people treat us unkindly, but we can still address the situation with empathy, knowing that the bully is in pain too even if they are unaware of it.

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The joy of learning. Together. 


Reading and Eating

What I’m Reading:  “25 of the Most Exciting Picture Books of Fall 2017” by Devon Corneal. This is a quick review of 25 great children’s books coming out this fall. If you’re looking for something new to read at home or at school, follow the link to read about the books yourself!

Building Confident Learners: Read, read, read! Reading at home either with an adult or alone is the one of the easiest ways to develop literacy. Choose books that are interesting or new, and set aside specific time to snuggle up with a good book! You can check out the list above for some fun ideas.


By bedside table full of reading material! 

What Gives Me Joy: Cooking and sharing a meal. Nothing is as comforting as a delicious meal shared with good family and friends. I’ve been enjoying planning meals to cook for the week and have found some fun new recipes in the process! Cooking with kids can be a great way to teach them to follow directions. It also provides a mini lesson in measurement while supporting teamwork.

The joy of learning. Together.


Quick Tips: Failure


Below are two more quick tips for helping children navigate experiences of failure.

Encourage them to try new things

  • Trying new things can inspire them and provide new avenues for success. This doesn’t mean giving up on an activity that they have expires failure in. Remind them to keep working through a failure AND to try new things.

Role model failing gracefully

  • Show them how to lose gracefully when playing a board game or a sport. Congratulate the winners even when you’re on the losing end.
  • Laugh at yourself! It’s no fun to take yourself too seriously and kids know it. Show them that making mistakes and failing can be OK and even humorous at times.
  • Stay motivated. When you fail, you can role model resilience by continuing to work through the problem.
  • Talk with them about your feeling of failure and about how your worked through a tough experience.

Kindess Lessons

be kind

What can I do with my child to promote kindness, you ask? Well, let me tell you…

  • Create a kindness board

Have you ever heard of a vision board? A vision board is essentially a visual representation of all your dreams and goals. Similarly you can create a kindness board with tons of things your child relates to kindness. You can use magazines, print pictures of friends and family, etc…You can include kind people (both famous and not), kind actions, and other images of kindness. It could be fun to create a section for goals of kindness too! Brainstorm some things your child wants to do to show kindness towards others. Think volunteering, helping friends, giving thanks etc…

  •  Read books about kindness and maybe even write some yourself

There are so many awesome books about kindness, but if you need a few ideas you can visit my post on books about kindness as a starting point. Use those books as inspiration and help your child use their creativity to create and illustrate their own story to teach kindness.

  • Get out into the community and volunteer

Find ways to get involved in your community! There are tons of volunteer opportunities for kids and adults. Whether you’re looking for a one-time or recurring opportunity there are always people that can use your help. Start by looking up organizations you’d like to help and give them a call!

  • Lead by example

If we want our children to be kind, we must be kind a well. Model gratitude, love, respect, and acceptance. Every. Single. Day.

  • Kindness charts

When a child struggles with kindness (let’s face it we all do sometimes) it can be helpful to make a kindness chart with them. A kindness chart is essentially a behavior chart with a specific goal in mind. By noting kind behavior in a chart, the child can see when they’ve made good choices and when they made some mistakes. A physical chart can help them see how they are doing and adjust their behavior.

The joy of learning. Together.


History, Modeling Behavior, and Coffee!

What I’m Reading:  Radium Girls by Kate Moore. I’m actually listening to the audiobook version using Hoopla, which is an app I think everyone needs to know about! I’m a sucker for historical content so I’m loving this one. Radium Girls tells the story of the young woman who worked in the radium-dial factories painting glowing numbers on watches with radium paint. We know now that radium is a deadly element but at the turn of the 20th century it was a miracle substance. The story chronicles their fight for justice and workers’ rights as they suffered from radium poisoning. So much drama, so much truth, such an important story.


Building Confident Learners: Model failing with grace. I know, it’s easier said then done but children learn so much from watching the important adults in their lives. Remember, children are always watching and learning so be who you want them to be. Model the best version of yourself whenever possible (no pressure right?).

What Gives Me Joy: Coffee shops. Writing this, I am at Little River Roasting Co. in downtown Spartanburg drinking a delicious latte. This particular coffee shop also has a bakery (Cakehead Bakeshop) and a bookstore (HubCity Bookshop) attached to it so it’s pretty much my version of heaven.


The joy of learning. Together.


Quick Tips: Failure and Internal Locus of Control


Another week, another post on everyone’s favorite subject-failure!

Failure is of course unavoidable. You can help your child cope by assisting them to create an internal locus of control by reminding them that they don’t need someone else to say they are the best, in order to be their best. Additionally, they don’t need to blame others for their mistakes.

Julian Rotter first brought the concept of internal or external locus of control to light in the mid 20th century and many aspects of it hold true today. The theory states that someone has a a strong internal locus of control if they believe that what happens to them is largely their doing, while someone with a strong external locus of control believes that their life is controlled by luck, or by other people.

Of course, there are many things in life that we don’t have control over. You can refer to my previous post on control and anxiety to take a peek at my thoughts on the subject. Still, having a internal locus of control allows the individual to feel empowered by their own actions. It’s important to note that the danger of of an overly fortified internal locus of control is overconfidence and/or lack of perspective. We have to keep in mind the societal and cultural structures in which we live in, which affect our lives outcomes. Rotter’s work could be improved if he included the interaction of social privilege and locus of control.

Simply put, a healthy balanced individual with an internal locus of control can find success because they are empowered to work for it, and believe they can succeed. And when they fail, which they will at some point, they often own their part of the failure and strive to fix it. On the other hand, an individual with an external locus of control will blame the people around them for their failures and are less likely to fix their mistakes.

By helping your child stray from blaming others for their failures and instead look at their part, they will be able to build on their mistakes. They can then learn from said mistakes and in the end find more success. Model self-reflective behavior, probe them with questions when they experience failure, and help them feel excited to do better next time.

The joy of learning. Together. 


Books That Teach Kindness

As promised I have compiled a few books that teach kindness. Although there are many great books out there, for the purpose of brevity I will list four. The first two books are suggestions for lower elementary readers, while the second two are for an older audience of young readers.

  1. “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein.

the giving tree

A true classic for young readers. I love its focus on empathy and find my heart breaking a little for the giving tree every time I read it. The story reminds young readers to be grateful for the support they have, and to return love and kindness.

  1. “Have you Filled a Bucket Today?” By Carol McCloud

bucket filler

This book uses the metaphor of filling up a bucket with your love, kindness, and positive actions. It encourages loving behavior by illustrating how our actions and words either “fill up” or “empty” our buckets.

  1. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis


Although perhaps above the reading level of younger children, it is accessible to them by reading aloud with an adult. The characters in “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” and particularly relatable to children and the book has many lessons on kindness and navigating sibling relationships.

  1. “Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain


A more complex look into friendship, freedom and systemic oppression. It asks readers to think about how we as a part of a community within a broader society, show either love and kindness, or hate and subjugation. Because the story touches on a handful or sensitive (albeit very important issues) I suggest this story be saved for middle and high school readers.

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

-Mark Twain

The joy of learning. Together. 


Audiobooks, Empathetic Teaching and Running

What I’m Reading:  I’m currently listening to an audiobook version of “Introvert Power” by Laurie Helgoe, PhD. This is a great book for both introverts and extroverts because it clears up common misconceptions about what both introversion and extroversion really are. For example, I am an introvert, which does not mean that I don’t like people. After all, my chosen profession involves being actively engaged with people much of my waking time. In fact, I really love people and I love being with people. I just need alone time to recharge and collect my thoughts. Additionally, as an educator I also appreciate how the book gives insight into how my introverted students might have different avenues of learning than my extroverted students, and it inspired ideas of how to target each type.


Building Confident Learners: Meet learners where they are. Pay attention to the student’s emotional and physical state and adjust your expectations accordingly. Focus on their health status, their sleep quota, and what’s happening in their lives both inside and outside of school that might affect their overall ability to perform academically.

What Gives Me Joy: Running. I’ve been enjoying running outside now that being outside doesn’t immediately turn me into a human sweat-ball. For this native Wisconsinite, the temperatures of SC have verged on traumatic but I will not give up! I’ve especially enjoyed running on the Mary Black Trail, more commonly called the Rail Trail, in Spartanburg. Everyone waves or smiles when I pass them on my runs, which, when I think about it, really shows how welcoming the community is considering how overheated and disheveled I am. Kudos to the community of Spartanburg for their welcoming nature!


Me in Alaska (it’s a little colder there), doing a celebratory jump during a run.

The joy of learning. Together.


Quick Tips: Failure

Here are this weeks quick tips on how to help your child deal with experiences of failure.


  • Remind them that everyone fails sometimes, and that failure often leads to lessons about how to do something better next time. At the very least it teaches you about your own reactions to making mistakes and how to transform your reactions into actions. 
  • Comparing is despairing. This is one of my favorite quick reminders. There will always be someone who does something better then you, or at least appears to. But we don’t know the whole story, we don’t know what their experiences are. We only know what our experiences are, and that’s what’s important.
  • Remind them that there is always time to try again! Tomorrow is a new day, and no matter what you get to be part of the world. My father once told me (after a moment of extreme embarrassment), “Well, they can’t kick you out of the world.” And he was right, I’m still here making mistakes and learning everyday.

The joy of learning. Together.


Kindness a Definition

Thank you to those of you who responded with you definitions, I loved them! Based on your responses and my own ideas of what kindness is, I came up with this list of words that exemplify what kindness is.

  • Patience
  • Acceptance
  • Love
  • Respect
  • Empathy
  • Support
  • Trust
  • Sympathy
  • Forbearance (self control and tolerance)

I also came up with a list of concrete examples of actions kids can relate to and use on a daily basis.

  • Provide relief or help others when they need it. For example, helping a friend tie their shoe or helping them with a math problem
  • Give hugs
  • Give compliments
  • Wait your turn
  • Listen without interrupting
  • Try to understand someone else’s point of view. For example, perhaps you’re trying to decide on which game to play, and your friend is upset because you’ve gotten to choose the last few times. Think how you would feel if you were them, and act based on how you think they might feel (maybe let them choose this time to be fair).
  • When in a disagreement, wait to respond if you know you’ll lose your temper. Take a deep breath, walk away for a little while, or talk to a trusted adult.
  • Speaking to others as you would like to be spoken to. Think, “Would I like it if someone said this to me?”
  • Using the “Golden Rule” in general
  • Show appreciation by saying “thank you” to others. For example you can say thank you to your parents for making you meals and helping with homework, or to your friends for their kindness towards you.
  • When someone else is sad you can show them sympathy by asking if you can help them, giving them a hug, or telling them you care about them.
  • Remind yourself that you can disagree with someone and still care about them.

Most importantly, BE RIGHT SIZED. This was my number one classroom rule. It means that in order to be kind we must always remember that we are not better or worse than the person sitting next to us. Nothing about us makes us inherently better or worse than anybody else. Our abilities, ethnicity, religion, race, gender, skin color, socio-economic status, learned skills, possessions, grades, ideas, or geographic location etc…do no make us better or worse than anybody else. If we remember to be just the right size, not bigger (better) or smaller (less important) we can do a lot of good and spread a lot of kindness.

Next up, I’ll be talking about books that you can read with your child to teach them about kindness. Get excited, I know I am!

The joy of learning. Together.