Ready for some good news? Kindness can be taught. It’s taught through modeling and discussion, and there are a lot of great recourses that concretely teach kindness. Every school I’ve visited has a school wide program aimed at teaching kindness and empathy towards others. In order for a program to work though it must be consistently taught throughout the school day and at home.
There are a lot of quick resources for kindness activities. For example Discovery Education has some good ideas on how to implement a program with a monthly theme and easy activities. Kindness curriculums don’t need to take up the school day, teachers barely have time as it is to get through the standards and lessons they planned. Quick mini lessons sprinkled throughout the week can be just as effective.
Team building activities, “clubs”, and service projects are other fun ways to get kids involved in kindness. For example, One year some of my third grade girls were having trouble getting along so I formed a lunch club and we worked on projects and games together. It was a great way to get to know my students better, and to help them get through a rough patch. Hosting clothing or food drives is another simple way to build empathy both at home and at school. Volunteer at local food pantries, hospitals, shelters, or other service organizations in your neighborhood. Build kindness and service into your daily life.
I know it may sound like I’m simplifying something that isn’t that simple. Teaching kindness is a team effort. It’s not a school’s or a teacher’s sole responsibility to teach kindness. Communities, neighborhoods, schools, parents, and families need to work in tandem. And lest I be called a Pollyanna, it’s important to note that sometimes there is a lot going against teaching kindness. Just do what you can do, where you are, with what you have. That’s all any of us can do.
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.
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.