This is a guest post from Dr. Lynne Kenney, Harvard-trained psychologist, international educator and mother of two. generationOn recently engaged Dr. Kenney to have her share the science and secrets behind having a productive and meaningful brain-based 'Kindness Conversation' with the kids and teens in your life.
We're super excited that kindness has hit its COOL... Yes, it is "Cool To Be Kind." Coaches are sayin' it, teachers are sayin' it and most importantly kids are sayin' it.
As a teacher, coach, parent or community leader, you are a role model, mentor, and guide who teaches children how to be kind. You see, many children hear our messages, "Be Kind," "Use a nicer voice," "Make a better choice." Yet, often they have not been taught the words, thoughts and actions to speak, think, and act in a better way. It takes modeling, practice and patience.
You show the children with whom you work and love what being kind looks like, through your words and actions. You may have encouraged kind, caring, empathic behavior among your students or children in the past and it might feel familiar and comfortable to you. If the conversation feels new to you, here are some helpful places to start.
"Cognitive Conversations" are thoughtful exchanges that go deeper than what kids are generally used to. They engage the thinking part of the child's brain by showing them the how, what and why of prosocial behaviors such as empathy and kindness. We have found that when we have "Cognitive Conversations" with children we get them thinking about what kindness is and how to practice more of it. Cognitive Conversations help children feel empowered as they begin to notice kind acts in themselves and in others. It's motivating for children to experience being kind as less of a "to-do" and more of an "I want to BE."
If you're ready to Power Up the Kindness in your school, family or town we've got you covered with five fast tips to get the cognitive conversation going and the kids pumped up!
How to Have The Cognitive Conversation About Kindness
1. Talk with the kids about what kindness is. Instead of telling them what it is, ask them.
"Hey guys, we often hear, 'Let's be kind, help me out here, what does that mean to you?" Help them generate ideas, build on one another's viewpoints and summarize what they say in words, everyone understands.
2. Talk with the kids about what kindness "looks like".
Images are a language many children understand. They see images everywhere. They often speak in images. When a child says, "That looks gross," you can see their facial expressions now, right? Images are concrete. They aren't metaphors, they don't represent something, they are something, so consider starting there.
"We've heard that kindness actually 'looks like' something, if you imagine someone being kind, describe for us what that looks like."
3. Talk with the kids about what kindness "sounds like".
When you hear someone being unkind, it's clear what that sounds like. Unkind words and tone (such as sarcasm and contempt) are easy for the brain to pick up and understand. Talking with the children about how they know what kindness sounds like is truly meaningful to them. It's eye-opening, empowering and validating.
"Hey guys, did you know that being kind actually sounds like something?"
"Let's imagine for a moment what kindness "sounds like" to you."
"Is it loud or quiet?"
"Is it harsh or gentle?"
"Is it inviting or rejecting?"
"When you hear kindness, does it make you feel interested and engaged?"
"The cool thing about the sound of kindness is that you can be sure you know it when you hear it. Can you give us an example of what kindness sounds like to you?"
4. Make kindness personal.
Children are used to being on the receiving end of all kinds of lessons. So much so that they can tune-out. Help your students tune-in by asking them to write a story, draw a picture, create a poem, song or dance describing a few tips they have for other students to help them be kind.
5. Turn the conversation into action.
With tools such as generationOn's Rules of Kindness campaign, your students can make kindness a part of their everyday lives by living with more kindness in each moment, by participating in acts of service and by spreading the word that Kindness Counts.
Here at generationOn, we've laid the groundwork, all you've got to do is push PLAY. Watch the video below to learn more about how you can talk to kids and give them the tools they need to lift kindness up. Let us know how it goes, we're listening.
For tools and resources to help you have the kindness conversation, and to share your rules, visit generationon.org/rulesofkindness.
About Lynne Kenney, Psy.D.
Lynne Kenney, Psy.D., is a Harvard-trained psychologist, mother of two, an international educator, author and pediatric psychologist in Scottsdale, AZ. Dr. Kenney's works include the Social-Emotional Literacy program Bloom Your Room(tm); Musical Thinking; Bloom: 50 things to say, think and do with anxious, angry and over-the-top-kids and 70 Play Activities For Better Thinking, Self-Regulation, Learning and Behavior. www.lynnekenney.com.