What is kindness?
“Kindness refers to the behaviours toward others that are compassionate, genuine and require the ability to empathise, which is the ability to understand the emotional experiences and responses of another person,” says Rachel.
“Behaviours that are considered kind are often centred on consideration for others and being able to understand and meet another person’s needs.”
In 2015 and 2016 researchers assessed how children perceived kindness.
Expressed through drawings, children typically perceived kindness as physically helping others, maintaining friendships, showing respect and helping each other emotionally.
Rachel points out that kindness should not be confused with being nice.
She explains that being nice is more about how other people see you, whereas being kind is how you feel about yourself.
“Genuine kindness is all about being kind because you want to, not because you have to or you are getting some kind of reward for it,” she says.
How do you teach kindness?
“Children learn to be kind, not only by receiving kindness, but by experiencing the warmth and satisfaction of offering kindness and compassion to others,” explains Rachel.
Within her book, Rachel explores five strategies on how parents and caregivers can demonstrate kindness, as well as how they can set up opportunities for their children to be kind.
“The five strategies focus on: modelling (walking the walk), language use and development (talking the talk), reinforcing behaviours, emotional regulation (self-managing their emotions and distress) and expanding their circle of concern to notice others,” she says.
“Within the book, each of these areas are explored in more detail with corresponding practical tips and activities to explore with children.”
Rachel recognises that it can be tough to get children to consider other’s needs.
“It’s not because they are bad children, but because when they are young, they can be very egocentric and focused on themselves,” she says.
“In order to teach our children to be kind we have to get away from rewarding behaviour in traditional ways.
“This counteracts the message because children are only being kind to get something out of it, not because they actually wanted to be kind towards another.
“We need to set up age appropriate opportunities for our children to start learning about and considering other people’s experiences and emotions.
“If they can clearly understand this, then it’s easy to encourage them to wonder and be curious about how to start acting kindly.
“I really think lots of discussions about noticing other people and also modelling kindness to your children are important.”