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Kids have heard that bullying isn’t OK, but what about flipping that message and making sure they’re specifically being kind?
“Young people sometimes think they have to be popular—at any cost—to have power, but it’s important that we teach our kids about the power of kindness,” says Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald. “When you’re kind, not only do you get a boost of the brain chemical serotonin, which makes you feel happy and calm, but so does the person you’re being kind do and all the people who witnessed that act of kindness get that same rush of feel-good hormones. So by taking the effort to do the thoughtful or compassionate thing, your girl can influence the mindset of a whole group of people.”
But it’s not enough to simply encourage our kids to be kind—we need to show them how. According to kids aged 9-11, the top reason they gave for not extending kindness to a kid who’s being picked on or left out is that they didn’t know what to do or say.
So how can you be a kindness role model? Follow these three steps!
1. Give her the words
There’s no doubt that your girl wants to be kind to others, but her mind might be at a loss when kind words are needed most. Talk her through some scenarios that might happen at school or in her social groups, and ask what she might say. If she’s having trouble coming up with something to say to someone who’s being bullied or who might feel lonely, practice these ice breakers that can be used in many different situations:
- What they said wasn’t right. Are you OK?
Calling out bullying and checking in with people is a great way to show you care.
- Come sit with us!
A simple invitation can do a world of good.
- Hey, I really liked your [drawing/poem/science project—something specific to that kid].
Showing people that you pay attention and value their talents or something different or special about them will make them (and you) feel good.
2. Set the bar
Practice random acts of kindness, especially in front of your girl! Whether that’s getting a drive-through meal for a homeless person in your community, regularly checking in with a friend who’s going through a tough time, or offering to drive an elderly neighbor to the library, tell your girl about it and let her know why you’re taking action. Brightening someone else’s day isn’t just nice—it’s the right thing to do.
3. Call out kindness
When someone does something nice for you or your family in front of your girl, identify it as an act of kindness by saying something like, “That was so kind. Thank you!” By pointing out kindness when it happens, you’ll let people know how much you appreciate their caring ways and show your girl a wide variety of ways she could be kind in the future.
Above all else, remember that kindness—using compassionate words, being inclusive, and showing care through action—can and should start at home. Kids who are unkind at school are often treated unkindly by siblings at home, or are taught that some forms of unkindness are simply “teasing” which they should never be. By creating a loving, supportive, and kind home base for her, you’re already giving her a head start in being a super kind kid!