Is kindness something that you can learn or are you born with it?
In my experience, children develop their empathy and generosity towards others through adults modelling kindness, praising kindness when we see it and creating opportunities for showing kindness to others. Sharing toys, helping a friend who is stuck, letting a classmate join your playground game and raising funds for charity are the bread and butter, everyday stuff schools encourage kids to do to teachkindness and compassion. My school, Coppice Valley, recently achievedthe“Kind School 2020” accreditation from Kindness UK, a non-profit organisation, for our work in developing kindness in children.Kindness is one of our school values and “Be Kind” is one of our school rules.It’s part of who we are. I’m proud of our pupils and what we do to teach kindness but a radio interview about our award got me wondering about it…
I was asked why kindness should be taught at all in school, isn’t the ability to be kind within us all, naturally? This got me thinking. Inevitably, I turned to the internet for research…
Neuroscientists have found evidence that our brains are hard-wired for compassion, to be sympathetic and feel pity for the suffering of others. So yes, we are born with the capacity forkindness but psychologists’ research also tells us that kindness can be nurtured and grown through practise. The Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, teaches that kindness can be strengthened like a muscle by using it more and more. Hey, if it’s good enough for the Dalai Lama, it’s good enough for me!Kindness can be learned.
A quick web search for kindness will lead you to thousands of sites promoting acts of kindness, there are even kindness apps that will send you daily acts and count your kindness points for you. In fact the drive to build a kinder world is gaining momentum. Kindness, it seems, is in fashion. Is this something to do with modern life? Have we become too selfish, too obsessed with personal gain? Perhaps. In a recent US study of 270,00 school children, 80% said their parents were more concerned about their academic achievement than whether they were kind to others. I thought about what I ask my own son when he comes home from school andit is usually about what he has learned and how well he did (not that he can usually remember!). Never have I asked him how kind he was to others during his day. Of course, I want him to do well in school so I am still going to ask him about it but I’m now going to make a point of asking whether he’s been thoughtful, kind and considerate too.
It’s easier than you think to make kindness part of your everyday life and to nurture it in your children. You and your family are probably doing small acts of kindness without thinking about it. The trick is to draw your child’s attention to it – explain why you gave up your seat on the bus for someone else or tell your child how proud you are when they do something kind. A good day to start your kindness awareness journey is February 14th.As well as being Valentine’s Day, it is Random Acts of Kindness Day. This is a fantastic way to teach your children how to be kind. Here are 10 ideas to get you started:
Leave money in a vending machine for the next person
Let someone know they are doing a great job
Paint kind messages on rocks and leave them somewhere people will find them
Play with someone new today
Call your grandparents for a chat
Let someone go ahead of you in a queue
Help with the recycling
Donate some toys or clothes to your local charity shop
Wash someone’s car for them
Write a thank you letter to your best friend
Have you got an idea for an act of kindness for children to do? We’d love to hear them!
Coppice Valley, proud to be a Red Kite Learning Trust School