Elementary school students learning in their classroom

Kindness is a vital life skill that all children need to learn and develop as they go through their teenage years into adulthood. Learning and practicing kindness in the formative years has been shown to increase academic performance and improve social and emotional skills. Teachers play a critical role in this development, as they spend many hours with their students each day and serve as role models for their behavior. In this post, we’ll outline six different strategies teachers can use to foster kindness in the classroom:

1. Lead by Example

The best way to teach children kindness is to be kind yourself. Teachers have a monumental impact on their students when it comes to learning essential life skills like kindness, so they should always practice kindness in their interactions with not only students, but also with other teachers and adults. As students learn how to kindly interact with others, it will benefit them both now and later in life.

2. Talk About Kindness

We often do not give socio-emotional skills like kindness, empathy, and patience the credit they deserve, but these are all vital elements to a healthy and happy adult life. We tend to reserve discussions about them for special occasions or events, when they should actually be a constant topic of discussion between teachers and students. Talk about kindness everyday, incorporate it into as many lessons as possible, and encourage students to talk about it with their peers and at home as well.

3. Prioritize Books That Teach Kindness

Reading is a powerful tool teachers can use to reinforce topics, including skills like kindness. Students can often connect with characters in stories, opening their mind to why kindness is important through the journey those characters experience. They may not even realize how they are internally relating the events in a book or short story to events in their own lives, but once that connection is there, it’s there for life. Choose classroom reading materials that emphasize the importance of kind actions, teach students what to do when faced with a lack of kindness, and inspire critical thinking about how to live a kinder life.

4. Make Kindness a Big Deal

Children usually love to be recognized for good behaviors, so when you witness students using kindness in their interactions with others, make a big deal about it! Praise them for their actions and explain to everyone why the student’s kindness was so important. By doing so, you’ll be encouraging other students to be kind so they can receive that praise too! (Note: not all students love public recognition, so tailor your praise and response to the preferences of the student when possible)

5. Reward Kindness

While students should learn to be kind in a selfless way, there’s nothing wrong with incentivizing kind acts along the way to provide some positive reinforcement. Little prizes like novelty toys, fun school supplies, or homework passes are all great ways to reward kindness in the classroom. It feels good to receive a prize, and students will start to associate that good feeling with being a kinder person, motivating them to continue kind behaviors.

6. Make Kindness the Rule, Not the Exception

If you practice all of the tips listed above, your students will naturally learn that kindness is the rule, not the exception. Incorporate kindness into everything you do as a teacher and your reward will be a classroom full of emotional growth, with your students better prepared for the difficult transitions of life to come. Kindness should be projected in everything you do, all your lessons, and all classroom activities. Even when discipline is required, it needs to come from a place of kindness to help students understand that poor behavior is not acceptable, but that it doesn’t define the student’s worth as a person.

Building a Foundation for Kindness

A teacher’s job goes far beyond just sharing knowledge. Teachers are caregivers and role models, there to show students how emotionally-stable adults should behave. Through a dedication to teaching appropriate social-emotional behaviors, teachers can cultivate an environment where kindness thrives both in the classroom and throughout their students’ lives.

Need some great incentive options for rewarding kindness in your classroom? GEDDES has been providing schools with high-quality school supplies since 1924, and we now also offer a variety of novelty toys and more to keep students engaged and excited. Check out our digital catalog, place an order on our website, or contact us for more information.