Growing Kindness in Our Families & Classrooms

Try to perform a simple act of kindness every day ~ Sharon Salzberg

 

Last year on Thanksgiving, my kids and I created a December Acts of Kindness Calendar. My hope was to cultivate kindness in my children. This experiment turned out to be an effective way for me to talk about kindness with my kids–what it looks like, how it makes us feel, and why it is important. 

Since doing this calendar last year and trying a few different methods throughout this year, I have a learned a few things. I applied these tips for this year’s calendar (see below). So far so good! Here are 6 tips to growing kindness in our children or students:

  • Let the kids take an active role in creating this calendar. Kids can be the scribe, they can design the calendar, and most importantly, they help determine the act of kindness for that day. It is important that this activity comes from them with your caring guidance.
  • Keep the act SIMPLE! Everyone likes to feel successful, especially when they are learning and trying new things. Help your kids to identify simple acts like “high five a friend,” “help a classmate,” “thank the custodian.” You can search for acts of kindness for kids and find tons of lists online that you can use as idea starters. 
  • Clearly display the calendar. Fortunately, I have a space next to my front door where I hang the calendar. We walk by it all the time. It is helpful to keep it in view as a reminder.
  • Talk briefly about the act before and after. Every morning, the kids and I look at the calendar and talk briefly about the act (when they might do it? If they’ve done it the other day?).  Most days this takes just a couple of minutes.  After school, we briefly discuss if they engaged in the act, what happened, and how it made them feel. 
  • Low pressure. Avoid associating external rewards with completing the act of kindness. The point is to help children access their natural capacity to be kind and to foster their ability to notice kindness. If your child or student forgot to complete the act of kindness, tell him or her that it is okay. Suggest he or she engage in it with you, a sibling, or a classmate. Or, ask if they engaged in another act of kindness or saw someone act kindly. 
  • Be a model. Many of the acts of kindness your children or students choose for the calendar can be completed by you too. Share your experience with them. This builds a connection between you and your children/students. It provides them with language to describe kindness. Also, it just feels good! You will notice a change in your perspective too.

I hope these tips support your effort to grow kindness in your family and in your classroom.  One of the most beautiful results of this interaction with my children is that kindness has become a central value in our lives.  Not only have my children benefited, but so have I. 

May you know kindness.

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