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6 Tips for Teaching Kindness in the Classroom

Oxford Languages defines kindness as “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” Today more than ever, the world is in great need of kindness. By teaching children to be kind to themselves and others, we’re empowering them with skills that will benefit them in both childhood and as they transition to adults. In fact, children who exhibit more kind behaviors towards others also perform better academically and have more positive social-emotional skills in other areas, among several other benefits. As of 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that over 80% of American youth attend public school, so teaching kindness in the classroom is a great way to help students build this vital skill in a setting where they already spend so much time. In this post, we’ll list our six top tips for teaching kindness in the classroom, suitable for all classroom sizes, types, and styles.

  1. Role Model Kindness

We listed role modeling first because it is by far the most important of all our teaching kindness tips. If the teacher does not exhibit kindness in their interactions with their students, parents, co-workers, and others, there’s no way they can teach kind behaviors to the students. Kindness is a skill that must be learned at first by watching others…talking about it alone just won’t cut it. Teachers should examine their own behaviors when interacting with others and purposefully try to be more kind whenever possible. By witnessing kindness in the adults around them and the benefits that kindness brings, children can more easily see the benefit in doing something for another person without expecting anything in return.

  1. Talk About Kindness

Kindness should be an everyday conversation, not just reserved for special occasions. Along with constant role modeling, teachers should engage students in active conversations about kindness, its importance, ways to be kind, and how to handle when others are unkind. By openly communicating with students about these vital non-academic topics, teachers build a relationship of trust and understanding with students and help them navigate confusing or difficult emotions.

  1. Read About Kindness

A great way to spark a conversation about kindness with students is by starting with a story. Read a short story, poem, article, or news piece related to kindness and then discuss it with the students. It’s easy to adapt this activity to the reading and comprehension level of the class and older kids may even want to contribute online sources of their own. This can also introduce students to current events and bolster their critical thinking skills.

  1. Praise Kindness

When a teacher witnesses a student exhibiting kind behaviors in the classroom setting, it should be immediately praised. Teachers should also encourage other students to praise the behavior. This immediate feedback lets students know that their kind behaviors really don’t go unnoticed. It may be necessary to personalize praise to the student, as some students may not want to be loudly praised for their kind actions. Use professional discretion on how to offer each student the praise they deserve.

  1. Incentivize Kindness

Take that praise a step further by incentivizing kind behaviors. Now, we know that kindness is really about helping others without expecting a reward, but hear us out. While students may initially engage in kind behaviors to win that piece of candy, novelty toy, or other prizes, those kind behaviors and the happiness they bring others will still give the student that great feeling all humans get when being kind to others…a feeling that research suggests they will want to continue, even without a tangible incentive. So think of giving out kindness rewards as a way to prime the kindness pump, which will hopefully keep flowing for the rest of that child’s life!

  1. Normalize Kindness

We mentioned above that teachers should role model kindness and talk about kindness every day. These are just two steps in normalizing kindness in not only the school setting, but also in the larger community. By incorporating discussion, praise, and rewards for kindness into the class’ daily routines, teachers can reinforce that kindness should just be a part of everyday life. A fun way to add a touch of kindness to daily activities is by doing kindness-focused activities, such as building a kindness chain, playing kindness bingo, painting kindness rocks, or just encouraging everyday random acts of kindness using some of the strategies outlined above.

A Kindness Revolution – One Classroom at a Time

Teachers have the critical yet rewarding job of teaching students not only academic subjects, but also how to be good human beings. By being intentional about teaching kindness, teachers can help their students grow this essential soft skill and receive the extensive benefits being kind can provide. Using mindful strategies in the classroom, such as role modeling, open discussion, activities, praise, and rewards, can help teachers guide their students to being more kind and successful people.

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