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5 Simple Ways to Help Children Learn About and Experience Kindness

September 1st, 20151 Comment

By Charmaine Hammond

It’s back to school time - back to routines, structure, packing lunches, and education - a time that many parents celebrate, and teachers look forward to. For some children however, the return to school is not a welcomed occasion, rather, is met with apprehension, fear and resistance.  With recent studies stating that at least one in three children will experience being bullied and other reports indicating that students are victimizing each other at alarming rates.

Teaching children about kindness does make a difference in the development and mental wellness, and positively impacts their success at school.  It might seem that kindness is pretty straight forward thus easy to teach, but that’s not quite the case.  Children learn what they see. If they experience parents gossiping about their in-laws, laughing at jokes that contain a racial slur or put down, or even being self-critical and judgemental, they may not learn how to be kind to self and others.

Patty O’Grady, an expert in neuroscience, emotional learning, and positive psychology, specializes in education states: “Kindness changes the brain by the experience of kindness. Children and adolescents do not learn kindness by only thinking about it and talking about it. Kindness is best learned by feeling it so that they can reproduce it.”

Here are 5 Simple Ways to Help Children Learn About and Experience Kindness

1.       Drive Time

The time we chauffeur our children to sports, lessons and errands is treasured time.  It’s just you, your child and time.  Use this time wisely, instead of putting a video on or giving them your cell to play games, take time to talk to your child.  Some of the richest conversations can happen during drive time. You can also create kindness games to play while driving. Ask your child to be on the lookout for people showing kindness (putting their litter in the garbage can, holding a door open, smiling, waving thank you). We know that witnessing and experiencing kindness creates a “pay it forward” result, it changes our mood, and how we view situations and people in our lives.

2.       Dinner Time

Make mealtimes an opportunity to sit around the table. Some families have made their kitchen table a technology free zone.  Take opportunity to have “family meetings” at dinner, and find ways to have your children involved (e.g. be the time keeper, write the agenda, help make sure everyone’s perspectives are included in the conversation). Not only do dinner time conversations help the family, they provide positive opportunity for life skill development.

3.       Script

From the first day of school, children learn and practice fire drills and scripts for stranger danger. Repetition works!  Work with your child to develop a script to safely respond to bullying behaviour and to not be a by-stander.  This provides children with words they can use, and practice builds confidence and courage to speak out safely and with respect.

4.       Peaceful problem Solving skills

My dog Toby and I have presented to more than 15,000 children in schools on the topic of leadership, bully prevention and kindness.  We often see that children confuse conflict and disagreement with bullying. Helping your child learn that a disagreement is not bullying will support the development of effective conflict management. Bullying is repeated and intentional actions intended to cause emotional or physical harm.  Disagreement is simply that… two different perspectives. You like green, I like blue. When your children learn how to differentiate conflict and bullying, they will respond more appropriately. Here are four simple steps to teach your child how to respond to disagreement and conflict, with an easy to remember acronym – SALT.

S- Stop.  Be calm.

A - Ask questions

L- Listen to answers

T- Talk it out - talk out a solution


5.       Family kindness activities

Your family pets provide valuable teachable moments for your children.  According to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), “Children trained to extend justice, kindness, and mercy to animals become more just, kind, and considerate in their relations to each other.”  Helping children learn responsible loving pet care also helps them learn about empathy, which ripples over to how children treat each other.

Join the Family 10 Day Kindness Challenge with Charmaine Hammond and Team Toby.  It is super simple and free. Simply visit to download your family kindness activities, kindness certificate and activities for your child.

Charmaine Hammond, MA, BA is an expert in leadership, conflict resolution and resilience.  She has appeared at events around the world, has presented to thousands of businesses and together with her dog Toby, they have presented to more than 15,000 students. Charmaine is the author of several award winning and bestselling books including Toby the Pet Therapy Dog Says Be a Buddy Not a Bully, and,  Toby the Pet Therapy Dog and His Hospital Friends, and,.   She and her dog Toby are on their Million Acts of Kindness Tour across North America, and our magazine is a proud supporter and partner on their mission.  If you would like your child’s school to receive Toby’s kindness programs and a presentation, please contact Team Toby.

Tags: advice, kids

Reader Comments (1)

Charmaine said on October 7, 2015

thanks so much for sharing!!

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