"Children need to see you being kind to students, staff members and parents. Children need to hear your kindness through compliments, encouragement and honesty. "
~ Christina Dankert, author of The Kindness Machine
I am excited to share this guest post today, because it is the book birthday of The Kindness Machine. Last year, I posted a Beyond the Book Activity to use with this great book.
How many t-shirts, coffee mugs and signs have you seen recently with the message,
“Be Kind”? Those two little words seem to be on everything, but many people struggle
to do just that. Kindness matters. Oftentimes we notice unkind actions more than
kindness itself. We must shift our focus to intentionally being kind, point out kindness
when we see it and model it for one another.
Several studies suggest that kindness can improve self-esteem, reduce stress and help
build connection and empathy with others. These positive benefits are another reason
to intentionally put kindness as a focus in homes and classrooms.
Children need to see kindness modeled through both actions and words. How we react
and how we speak to each other does not go unnoticed by children. As a second grade
teacher, I start my school year by telling my new class, “I will never yell at you.” The look
on their sweet little faces is always that of shock. One year a student asked, “How will
we know if we are in trouble?” I smiled and explained that I have high expectations for
my students and that we will learn to use our words. Together, we brainstorm classroom
rules and most students offer up a rule that begins with the word, “don't.” My
mother-in-law has always said that the mind can not avoid a don’t. In college, we were
taught to start classroom rules with, “be.” After brainstorming, I guide the students to
have one classroom rule that takes care of it all, “Be kind with your hands, feet and
words.” With this one rule we are using our hands to ask questions and to help each
other up, we are walking in the hallways and using our words to speak kindly.
Similar to teaching reading decoding or comprehension, kindness has to be explicitly
taught and modeled. Children need to see you being kind to students, staff members
and parents. Children need to hear your kindness through compliments, encouragement
and honesty. I love pointing out my mistakes, because we all make them. Reminding
children that even adults make mistakes and need to try again helps to humanize a
teacher, parent or caregiver. This allows a child to understand that they too can make
mistakes and try again.
I wrote my first children’s book The Kindness Machine, in hopes of helping to start or
continue the kindness conversation in homes and classrooms around the world. There
are guided questions at the beginning of the book to ask questions before, during and
after reading. There are little questions in the heart of the book at the bottom right hand
corner to allow even the littlest listeners or readers to apply kindness to their own lives.
By pausing and asking intentional questions, the adult helps facilitate the concept of
kindness and allows the child to make a connection to their own lives. I am most proud
that the book shines a light on not only kindness to others, but also on kindness to
ourselves. I hope that children and adults reading the book get a reminder to love
ourselves and to spread kindness.
Kindness matters. Pass it on.