As a pediatric psychologist who develops research-based activities to help children improve their thinking, self-regulation, learning, behavior, and social-emotional competencies, I observe that the children with whom I work want to be connected, make friends, be liked and do well. Many times their behavior gets in the way of their academic and social success because they are not sure WHAT to say, think and do to be successful prosocial beings.
In Bloom Your Room, we help children behave and learn better by teaching them the skills to interact prosocially with kindness, respect and compassion.
We can teach kindness because being kind is a social skill and social skills can be taught.
Kindness and empathy are social-emotional skills that lay the foundation upon which academic learning and healthy behavior take place. When children feel emotionally safe, appreciated, respected and listened to, they learn better. Research shows that a sense of emotional connectedness, specifically within relationships leads to better adjusted, more successful learners. There are several ways we can move from seeing kindness and empathy as “soft” skills and begin to incorporate them into daily lives as foundational skills.
The first step to teaching Kindness is to help children learn to recognize what does Kindness look and sound like?
One way to teach Kindness is to help children learn to recognize kind and unkind behavior.
Let me give you an example. Today Jeremiah told me that he texted his friends to say that November 5th is his birthday and he will be having a party, so look for the invitation. In the group chat, one of his friends responded right away, “That’s Minecraft night.” Jeremiah’s internal thought was, “We have Minecraft every week, the 15th is my birthday, can we celebrate that for one night?” What I did was help him look at the texts and read for emotional tone and appreciation of the needs of others. We went line by line asking “Was that kind?”
By the end of the activity, Jeremiah looked at me (with his Thinker) and said, “I was thoughtful. I said ‘Hey, heads up you’re gonna get an invite so know it’s coming’.” “But my friend was a bit unkind. He responded impulsively (from his Caveman), thinking about what he likes instead of thinking, ‘Hey, it’s Jeremiah’s birthday, he’s a great friend, I’ll write back with an emoji that says – Yea, Man we’re all in!'”
Jeremiah went on, “I was also excited, my birthday only comes once a year.” “Now, I feel kind of sad, that my friend is more interested in Minecraft than me.”
“Instead of responding from a place of hurt feelings, I’ll just text back, ‘Minecraft is fun and I know you like it, hope you’ll come to my birthday party and we can do Minecraft another day.'”
Then Jeremiah had an insight. “Since I know emotional tone can also be misread in texts, I’ll talk with him in person when I see him.”
(Now, we’re talkin’, I thought:).
There are many ways to teach Kindness. We can look at our own behavior and ask ourselves, “What’s it like to be on the receiving end of what I just said?” or “What’s it like to be on the receiving end of what I just did?” We can tell ourselves to “Get Calm” and look at what happened.
- What did I say?
- What did they say?
- What did I think?
- What did they think?
- What did I feel?
- What did they feel?
- What did I do?
- What did they do?
Let’s Talk About Kindness
Having “Cognitive Conversations” about kindness is a solid beginning. We can improve not only a person’s self-awareness but also their behavior by helping them consider:
- What did I hear?
- What did I see?
- How did it feel?
Cognitive Conversations are powerful.
“We have found that having Cognitive Conversations with children improves their self-awareness and knowledge of the existence of and application of skills that might have previously gone unknown, unseen or out of awareness.”
Awareness is power, when we know more, we can do better.
Thinkerbee brings you, Bloom Your Room, the first social-emotional skill development program delivered as postable art and classroom activities (ages 4-10). Our goal is to change the trajectory of children’s learning with joy, empowerment, and respect. Join our motivated community of over 10,000 educators, parents & clinicians and get the news about workshops, activities, and research here.