Teaching kids how to be kind is one of the most important things we can do as teachers, and it doesn’t have to be complicated! When we explicitly teach our students what kindness is and give them concrete, specific examples of kindness, we can help them start practicing kindness with their peers.
There are many ways to be kind
When teaching kids how to be kind, students need to learn that there are many ways to be kind to others and then see and practice many different examples of kindness. Children need time to practice the social-emotional skills that you teach them, in order to be able to use them independently and successfully.
Greeting someone is the first example I use for teaching kids how to be kind in my class. When we greet someone with a smile and use their name and look towards them it makes them feel special and valued. This is kindness. Everyday we practice different kinds of greetings in the classroom and I make the connection to my students that this is being kind. This is showing kindness to others.
When teaching kids to be kind, teaching them how to give and receive compliments is a crucial part. When we first teach students to give compliments to others, we should teach students what a compliment is. A compliment is sharing something you like about someone. At first, students are often very surface level about appearances. For example, “I like your shoes”. When we give specific examples about more meaningful compliments, like, “you worked hard in writing today” or “you always make me laugh”, then they can practice those compliments and try them out with their friends.
I like to use compliments as a greeting occasionally and have children compliment the person next to them and we send the compliments around the room. If there’s ever a day where the morning started out with a lot of bickering and fighting, I definitely use this greeting to help make the day a little better going forward.
Including others to play with you
If you are teaching kids how to be kind, you must also teach them how to be includers. Being an “includer” is more than just saying yes if someone asks to play. A real includer is looking out for kids who are interested in playing, but might not have the words to ask. A real includer is looking out for lonely kids and inviting them to play. Teaching about includers is one of the most important lessons inside of my curriculum “Helping Kids Learn to Play”.
Making cards for friends
When we show our friends we care about them, we are showing kindness. Making cards for our friends or people around the building or community are great examples when teaching kids to be kind. Obviously, great times to do this are around the holidays or Valentine’s Day, but they can be done any time of year. Just give your students some cards and brainstorm some good sentence starters, like, “I like how you_____” or “Thank you for ____” or “You are really good at ____”. Then just let them write the cards and “send” the cards!
It feels good to be kind
When teaching kids to be kind, it is important to talk about how being kind isn’t just important to do or the right thing to do, it also makes us feel good to be kind. The best way to teach this lesson is with the book, Have You Filled a Bucket Today?. I always start the year with this book because I want my students to know that when they are being kind, they are filling up someone else’s bucket, AND their bucket! When I see or hear about kindness, I connect back to that book and say, “You were a bucket filler! I bet that felt good!”
Books about kindness
These are my favorite books to use when teaching about kindness. Which one is your favorite? You can get all these books and more (as I keep updating the list with newer titles) on my Amazon Store!
Teaching kids how to be kind doesn’t have to be hard. We should give specific examples of kindness and then give children a chance to practice the different ways to be kind. Once kids have time to practice, they will be more likely to use them independently and successfully!
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