Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Greetings from Barbara at The Corner on Character. What a spring-time treat to be here with Dr. Jean and Friends to share a few thoughts on helping raise kind kids. Thank you, Dr. Jean, for your kind invitation. 

One of my favorite jobs as a counselor and character coach is to empower our future leaders with values and virtues that will take them well into and beyond the 21st century. Not just knowing them and embracing them, but living them by doing them. One of my favorite skills to teach, model, and practice with students is being kind.
Kindness is learned behavior. That sentence bears repeating because it’s packed with so much hope. Hope that one day cruel bullying behaviors will be replaced with kind acts of compassion and care. Hope for a kinder, gentler climate in our classrooms and in our homes. Hope that we’re creating a culture of kindness in our country and in our world.

And we must start small, with our most important assets: our children. Since they are interacting with battery-operated devises way more than with heart-beating friends, teaching kindness may be more important to humanity and humankind now than ever before. Research shows that we are hardwired to be kind. And since kindness has the incredible power to boomerang back, it could be just the antidote to cruelty and chaos that we’ve been awaiting.

So how do we teach kindness? It helps when children witness and experience it. My friend Sheila from Pennies of Time actually takes her two young boys on an intentional kindness outing every day. Every day. On purpose. Unless they run out of time, in which case they read about and discuss kindness at tuck-in time. So inspirational.

In schools, that might be more of a challenge, but it’s totally doable. Kindness can be a topic of your morning meetings or sensitivity circles. Every day. Ask students to be on the lookout and share what they’ve seen. They can act it out, draw it out, dance it out, put it into a chant or rhythm – the possibilities are endless. Let them share and share again. Remember, kindness is learned behavior. Mirror neurons are triggering and children are going to eventually imitate what they’ve seen and felt.

Think they’re too small to make a difference? Think again. Here are some ideas for our littlest learners that teachers, parents, and role models can encourage and do with them:

*Help a neighbor by returning an empty trashcan to the garage door.
*Find stray carts (with an adult!) in the parking lot and return them to the cart corral.
*Pick up some litter on the playground at the park and recycle or trash it.
*Make get-well cards to a pharmacy to attach to its prescriptions.
*Look for needs and start a collection (like socks to warm the homeless),
*Write positive messages on the sidewalk.
*Take a bottle of water to someone who looks hot or thirsty.
*Grab a few quarters and go to a Laundromat to help someone with the laundry.
*Make and decorate bookmarks and take them to the local Library to distribute.
*Bake a batch of cookies for your banker or other service people in town.
*Cut out hearts, write affirmations or compliments, and attach them to doors throughout the school or neighborhood.
*Donate gently-used books, clothes and toys that you don’t need anymore.
*Put up a visual display and keep track of all of the kind acts you’ve done and seen.

Want a kindness brain break? Sing this little ditty with them that I wrote to go with the Bunny Hop dance:
Do a kind act (step out two times to your right)
It’ll boomerang back. (step out two times to your left)
Give kind, get kind (hop forward, hop back)
Just like that. (Hop three times).

Visit these sites for more ideas for building kindness:
Kind Spring
Random Acts of Kindness
Pay It Forward

I believe that kindness truly is the real global warming, don’t you? Try it and prepare to feel the warmth.