How can you teach kindness?
Yes, it’s yet another ‘awareness’ day that you might feel guilty about not covering in your already busy week but this is an important one.
Raising the profile of kindness and being kind to others (and yourself) is part and parcel of what schools do. This is a ‘bread and butter’ PSHE topic and one of many ‘soft skills’ that get plenty of air time in assemblies, corridors and playgrounds.
Or does it? Do we explicitly ‘teach’ kindness and explain the science behind being kind?
This is why Random Acts Of Kindness Day is actually one we should find time for so we can zoom in on our humankind. So what is the science behind it?
It’s good to share with children the research behind altruism – even learning this word is an opportunity to extend their knowledge.
caring about other people and acting in someone else’s interest. We may be acting altruistically whenever we offer someone our seat on the bus, make a cup of tea for a work colleague, donate money to a famine relief fund, or comfort a friend in distress.
Kindness centres on positive mental health and according to the Mental Health Foundation helping others is highly beneficial for people’s mental health and wellbeing. It can:
- reduce stress
- improve emotional wellbeing
- benefit physical health
- bring a sense of belonging and reduce isolation
- get rid of negative feelings
Children need to know that altruism is good for them, big time.
The Doing Good? report shows that being kind gives us a “helper’s high” and can improve our emotional wellbeing and reduce stress.
Being kind doesn’t have to be flashy either but can be a very simple act of smiling or opening the door for someone. Being a RAKtivist is good news for mind, body and soul and being kind doubles when you share it.
In a longitudinal experiment conducted in 19 classrooms in Vancouver, 9- to 11-year olds were instructed to perform three acts of kindness (versus visit three places) per week over the course of 4 weeks. The Kindness Count study found that when children performed acts of kindness or took notice of the pleasant places they visited, they experienced significantly higher feelings of happiness and satisfaction.
Being kind to someone else is all about putting a smile on their face. It’s doing something unexpected too. The RAOK Foundation website gives us 50 top things we could do. Click on the image below to find them:
They also have free lesson plans and loads of resources that you can sign-up for and are well worth a look.
What can you do to help children spread kindness?
Another idea is for children to start a RAOK Journal in which they record their own acts of kindness. In this reflective log they can write about what they did, who for, how the recipient reacted and felt and how it made the individual child feel about giving or doing something for someone else.
You could have a Kindness Board in class devoted to examples of acts of kindness children have shown around the school – these can be short examples and displayed proudly for all to see.
And what about volunteering? Do schools do enough to encourage this?
The Doing Good? report recommends that:
Schools, nurseries and playgroups encourage acts of kindness, peer support and a culture of volunteering from childhood. These should be embedded into existing citizenship activities and mental health promotion programmes. Schools, universities and colleges should encourage children and young people to volunteer in local communities.
Let altruism reign supreme.
101 Random Acts Of Kindness that can stimulate discussion.
Here’s a nice collection specific to classrooms from Ashley Brennan