How can we encourage more kindness in our classrooms?
Although it can feel like children often behave in selfish and self-centred ways, they are actually hardwired to be kind.
In fact, we all are because it was essential for our survival as a species. Back in the 19th Century, Charles Darwin noted that “those communities which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members would flourish best and rear the greatest number of offspring.” When we look after each other, we all do better. As Kukk (2017) says, “it is the compassionate people who win.”
But, more than that, our brains and bodies have in-built mechanisms to encourage us to be kind. When we are kind to others our brain’s reward centres light up as our bodies release the happy hormone dopamine. This is why people often report experiencing a ‘helper’s high’ after volunteering.
So, doing good feels good. But that’s not all, it seems that kindness is good for our health too. When we partake in prosocial behaviour our bodies also release oxytocin – the cuddle hormone. One of the side-effects of this happy hormone is that it lowers our blood pressure and even protects our hearts. So doing good, does us good too.
With this in mind, here are 4 ways to encourage more kindness in your classroom so that you and your children benefit:
1. Model Kindness
It may feel like our children actively do the opposite of what we say and do but, deep down, they are soaking up our example like a sponge. So, if we want our children to behave kindly that means we have to set a good example. This means speaking kindly (be mindful about moaning and saying unkind things about pupils, parents and colleagues!) and acting kindly.
If your children see you being polite to others, holding doors open, paying people compliments, they will start to imitate this behaviour.
2. Give To Others
Studies show that we actually get more happiness from spending money on others than on ourselves. And it doesn’t have to be a lot of money – it is the act of giving that gives people a boost, regardless of how much they spend.
So, why not get your class to choose a worthy cause to raise money for. Then host a bake sale, or do a sponsored activity, and raise some well needed funds for your chosen charity. See if you can invite a rep from the charity to your school and get the children to present them with the cash!
3. Good Deed Feed
Did you know that simply witnessing others being kind releases the happy hormone oxytocin in your body? And, given that kindness is contagious, the more we witness it, the more likely we are to be kind as well.
So, why not set up a ‘Good Deed Feed’ in your school where children record the kind deeds they’ve seen others do in and around the school.
4. Random Acts Of Kindness
It can be tempting to only do kind things for people we know but it is very powerful to carry out acts of kindness to complete strangers. You could host an It’s Cool To Be Kind Week where every child is tasked with carrying out an act of kindness in their local community.
In my school, one boy and his sister baked cupcakes with their dad, and they all went down to the local train station in the evening to greet tired commuters with their treats. What a way to end a dreary commute home!
Another family knocked on their elderly neighbours’ doors and offered to do their shopping for them. It was the first time they’d met some of their neighbours. Your random act of kindness could be just what that person needs! Check out this site for more kindness ideas.
Kindness is a vital life skill that not only grows children’s emotional intelligence but teaches them the importance of looking after others as well as themselves. Give these ideas a go to raise the profile of kindness in your school!