Five Benefits of Teaching Kindness
This blog post was written by Pat Barry, Director of Lower School.
As the youngest of seven children, my parents reinforced kindness daily. In the hustle and bustle of trying to get all of us to school on time, we learned to help one another get ready in the morning. Our parents modeled kindness for us consistently. This inherent behavior then translated to the outside of our home, as well. Academics were paramount in our home, yet kindness was an important character trait. We all worked hard to do well in school, yet being a kind person was critical to how our parents raised us.
My father was an NYC homicide detective for 50 years. He would take the bus, train, and NYC subway from our home on Long Island to his precinct. Every day, he would walk by a door attendant and wave hello. Over the years, he formed a friendship with this door attendant. My father would take the time to stop and catch up with him every day.
One late evening, my father was on duty and got shot in his chest. Thankfully, he was wearing his bullet-proof vest. After his surgery, he awoke to the door attendant and his surgeon standing together at his bedside. My father was so happy, yet confused, to see his friend at his bedside. It ended up that the surgeon and doorman were brothers. The surgeon spoke first and told my father that he was honored to be his surgeon. He was so happy to have been able to help my father because his brother, the door attendant, had told him about my father's kindness of going out of his way to say hello to him, which helped form a wonderful and authentic friendship.
Science has proven good reasons to prioritize kindness, backed by evidence of many physical, emotional, and mental health benefits. Many impressive benefits support teaching kindness in schools to decrease negative behavior:
- Happy, caring children
Endorphins produce the good feelings that we experience when being kind. They activate areas of the brain affiliated with pleasure, connection, and trust. Acts of kindness also help us form connections with others, reported to be a strong factor in increasing happiness.
- Greater self-esteem
Any small act of kindness can increase happiness, uplift energy, and give an incredible feeling of hope and self-worth from the rush of endorphins.
- Greater sense of belonging
Everybody has a fundamental need to belong and feel connected to the people around them. Being part of a community ensures support during difficult times and helps to increase a child's awareness of connection. Our teachers here at Far Hills Country Day School actively promote a culture of kindness that leads to improved friendships and feelings of belonging.
- Better concentration
Kindness increases a positive outlook, so children have greater attention spans, are more willing to learn, and are better creative thinkers with better results at school.
- Improved health and less stress
Being kind has many physical and mental health benefits, including increased happiness and reduction of stress.
Kindness is a powerful tool for nurturing the well-being of everyone at Far Hills Country Day School. It's a significant step towards empowering our students to be their best selves through kindness.
Our preschool students created a colorful banner of their handprints for our 9/11 lesson. There is a quote from Dolly Parton on the center of the banner: "If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours."
Each child can incorporate kind activities when it is modeled by the people they admire. Emily Seelaus, Director of the Upper School, and I have partnered to join in an all-school celebration of our pillars each month. For September and October, we are focusing on kindness through the curriculum and various activities for the students. This is the foundational piece to build the rest of our pillars. We will be working with the students throughout these two months to promote kindness within each of us.
We had read a book to our new students entitled, Kindness is Cooler Mrs. Ruler by Margery Cuyler. Take the time to read it with your child(ren). It will be so wonderful!
As I was walking out of a store last week, I held the door open for an older woman with many packages in her hands. She said to me, "You are too kind." I smiled at her and thought that my parents would be very proud of me.