Kindness is one of the most important qualities a person can have. Some people believe that it can be a sign of weakness and naivety. However, to be truly kind as a person it takes strength and courage. By teaching children about kindness, we are giving them a strong foundation for the future.
Kindness strengthens relationships
It is far easier to react to people in situations and to match a person’s level of disrespect than it is to keep calm and speak in a kind, balanced manner. You can still have strong boundaries and be kind, but it is the harder route to take. To approach a challenging situation with kindness, it means that you have to do what is right rather than doing whatever it takes to win, which is not always easy. However, the ability to do this will strengthen relationships because it will allow you to step out of the drama rather than engaging with it and saying things you don’t necessarily mean.
Kindness makes people happy
When we do something kind for people, it makes us feel happy because it is a positive act. Likewise, when people do something kind for us it makes us feel warm and fuzzy. Research also shows that acts of kindness can reduce social anxiety because it allows people to calm their minds by focusing on being kind to others.
Kindness is contagious
Seeing someone being kind can plant seeds in others. If you see the impact that someone’s kindness has on another person, you are likely to feel inspired to do the same. Also, if a person approaches you in a kind manner about a problem they have, you are more likely to respond in a similar tone. It is very hard to be mean to someone who is being kind to you!
Kindness is good for your health
Seeing or experiencing acts of kindness produces oxytocin, which is the ‘love hormone’. This hormone can actually reduce blood pressure and improve overall heart health
Teaching children kindness
It’s so important that we teach children about kindness and that, as parents and practitioners, we model it in front of them. Here are some different ways that we can encourage kindness in our settings:
- Read books about kindness
Within many stories there are acts of kindness. Use these as a talking point with the children and ask them their opinion. Stories are an amazing tool to allow children to make sense of different concepts. Asking children to identify characters that are kind can help to raise their awareness and encourage them to recreate scenarios in their own lives.
- Smile more often!
Studies show that when you smile at someone it triggers an involuntary response for them to smile back. The simple act of smiling spreads warmth and kindness in a room – so smile at the children as much as possible.
- Compliment children and staff
Giving compliments is an act of kindness because it makes people feel good about themselves. As you are passing children (or staff), compliment them on what they are doing. You can also do activities that encourage children to compliment each other (see point 4).
- Practise gratitude daily
Studies show that regularly practising gratitude increases happiness and reduces anxiety. By saying thank you and then acknowledging why we are grateful, we get a deeper level of appreciation because we are highlighting the value or benefit of what we are grateful for. This creates a positive mindset and a happier outlook on life. People who are happy in life are more likely to act in a kind manner. To practise gratitude in your setting, start every day with a little gratitude circle where you can encourage children to appreciate the small things in life. You can also use it as an opportunity to compliment others (see point 3) because children can show gratitude for each other. Download your free gratitude pack at www.earlyyearsstorybox.com/gratitude
- Explain everything
It’s very easy to pull children up on their behaviour and to tell them to stop doing something. However, it is really important when we do this to explain to them why they mustn’t do what they are doing. If a child is calling another child a name, ask them to stop doing this, but then explain to them why it is important not to call people names. Ask the child how they would feel if someone called them a name and go on to explain that calling names hurts people’s feelings and makes them feel sad, which is something we don’t want to do. Children are just finding their way and constantly testing boundaries and learning limitations. By explaining to children in a calm and kind way why we have asked them to stop doing something, we are giving them an opportunity to learn and develop their empathy, which is linked to kindness
As you can see there are many ways that we can teach children about kindness. However, the most important way is to be a role model. Whatever we do, we must remember that children are watching us and learning through our actions. If we are kind to others and to ourselves (which is often something that gets overlooked), we won’t go far wrong.
About the author
Stacey Kelly is a former teacher, a parent to 2 beautiful babies and the founder of Early Years Story Box, which is a subscription website providing children’s storybooks and early years resources. She is passionate about building children’s imagination, creativity and self-belief and about creating awareness of the impact that the Early Years have on a child’s future. Stacey loves her role as a writer, illustrator and public speaker and believes in the power of personal development. She is also on a mission to empower children to live a life full of happiness and fulfilment, which is why she launched the #ThankYouOaky Gratitude Movement.