The Power of Kindness: 7 Strategies to Use At Home and School
By Jon Konen
Coming off a contentious election season full of attack ads, kindness is needed now more than ever. It’s important we teach kindness at home, at school and across all environments. This starts with our body language and the words we choose to communicate. Here are seven strategies we can teach to emphasize the power of kindness.
1. Role Model Kindness
As parents and guardians, our biggest job is teaching our children how to be productive citizens in an ever-changing world. That starts by teaching them how to communicate and behave not only in our homes, but at school and in society. The power of a parent modeling kindness to another person, especially if they do not even know the person, can be life changing for a child. The conversations we have about why we chose to show kindness or gave grace is important. These are teaching moments. The feeling we get when we help someone should be highlighted. We are not looking for a thank you,
but are doing it because we believe in the Golden Rule, “Treat others how you want to be treated.”
2. Reframe Negative Language
When we hear others talking negatively, we should look for a positive and find happiness among the chaos. We do this to provide hope for ourselves and for others. When our children are talking negatively, we can reframe their language to the positive. We can express anger and sadness, but we must also show what we are grateful for in these situations. The old adage of our glass being half full applies to reframing language. For example, a driver cuts us off. We can get mad and make a comment or gesture … or we can think to ourselves, “Wow, they must really be late and need to get somewhere quickly.” We can reframe adults’ language as well, but we must ready for all types of reactions. Unfortunately, there are people who like to live in the negative. We must teach our children to be positive warriors.
3. Practice Words in Different Scenarios
We should practice our responses in difficult situations including tough conversations with our children. By doing this, there is a better chance they have powerful words to communicate how they feel and what they want when they experience a similar situation. Addressing bullying is a good example. The first step is letting the person know you do not like it. Then the words can go several different ways depending on the scenario you create. When we empower our students, they will be more equipped for difficult situations.
4. Use Compliments Often
Kindness can be as simple as letting someone know you like their T-shirt. A compliment tells us many things about your personality: 1) you noticed something, 2) you are trying to connect with the person, and 3) you are kind. Using genuine compliments that you truly believe can go a mile. A compliment may build a bridge with a friend who you have not talked with in a long time. A compliment may be the only kind words that person has received all day, week, or longer! Parents and guardians can work with students on how to give positive specific praise or compliments. You can ask your child to report back at dinner at least one person they complimented today. We are not searching for praise from our compliments, but we can teach that giving compliments shows we care about others. We must emphasize the positive feeling we get intrinsically when we connect with other people.
5. Surround Yourself with Positive People
At times we find someone who is so negative they drain the energy out of us. No matter how many acts of kindness we perform, compliments we give and grace we show, these people can still be negative toward us. Negativity is contagious. When we are around it too much our perceptions may become skewed. We are naturally attracted to people who are nice to us. We need to teach our children to surround themselves with other children who are positive.
6. Teach Empathy + Action = Compassion
Helping our children see a different perspective than their own can be a challenge. Empathy is the ability to see and understand what someone else is going through. A parent or guardian can use the well-used quote, “Don’t judge someone until you have walked in their shoes.” We must paint that picture for our
children through words and experiences. We can teach them how to give grace when showing empathy, and steering clear from judgment. When we judge others, we lose the ability to change ourselves. Parents and guardians can take it one step further to teach compassion. Compassion is empathy in action. We can teach our children how and when to take action when we empathize with someone. That might be raking leaves for a neighbor who just lost their husband, purchasing shoes for another student, volunteering time at the local mission during a holiday season or even performing a random act of kindness. Compassion trumps empathy. We must talk about it, model it and teach it to our children.
7. Use a Mantra – “Have courage and be kind.”
My wife uses the saying, “have courage and be kind” with her fifth-grade students and our own children. If we teach the meaning behind this mantra, we can then use it to help our students and children reset their brains immediately. In my house, we teach specifically how we need to be courageous. I still remember my wife telling both boys how to friend someone who was either being bullied or recently had a major life setback. She then empowered them with words to use to connect with that student. It takes courage to go up to someone we don’t know and be kind. We are vulnerable at the moment
because we don’t know the other person’s reaction. If we do it correctly, we are teaching skills that will be used the rest of their lives, and hopefully they teach their children one day. This all starts with finding your family’s mantra!
The time we spend working with our children will pay off. We can have conversations each day about one of the strategies listed above and then put the list into action. Start by having your child report to you at least one act of kindness they performed each day. Then report back to me in the comment
section if you are noticing a difference!