Kindness – should it be included in the curriculum?
I recently put the words Be Kind on my Face Book profile picture. Many others have done the same. This has been prompted by the tragedy of Caroline Flack being driven to overcome her natural survival instinct and take her life. One of the last things she wrote was Be Kind.
The shocking news sparked discussion with friends and family about what kindness is and if it means the same to everyone.
The general consensus was that some acts of kindness (and unkindness) are clear, but there are grey areas and these are not always so apparent. So how can we expect children to understand all the subtleties of what it is to be kind.
Currently, there is more and more mention of bullying and the mental health of children in the media. Children are suffering from low mood at earlier and earlier ages and now cyber space bullying has become even more sinister.
Kindness needs thought and intent
It seems obvious that we should all be kind to each other.
Yes the intention is to be kind, but will the recipient see it that way?
When carrying out an act of kindness we need to take into account of how the person on the receiving end will perceive it. Is your intention to make them feel better or yourself?
Some acts of kindness are disingenuous, an obvious example is when it is done for reward. Of course sometimes we do not realise that is what we are doing.
Take the cook who piles food on their guest’s plate. Who are they trying to please? Perhaps the person does not like to eat so much, or dislikes some of the food. They are then put in the position of either offending the cook or forcing themselves to eat too much.
Is the cook being kind?
This is the type of scenario, discussed in a safe environment in school can help children truly understand what Be Kind means.
So why is it necessary teach kindness as a subject in schools?
We are not born kind. It is a skill we learn from those who surround us as we grow up. Is it nature or nurture? Some children have a naturally more giving nature than others, some are more sensitive, their experiences growing up will mould how their innate natures manifest themselves.
Kindness is one of the things that help keep society together. Just recently we have seen some obvious examples during the floods, offers of rooms and food to those who have been affected. Help sent to people and animals suffering the effects of the bush fires in Australia.
If only we could sustain this throughout all aspects of our lives all the time. But competition and the instinctive need to survive often take precedence.
Watching children play we can see that competition is a vital part of how they find their place in the world. It is natural to want to fit in and find a ‘tribe’ they want to belong to. William Golding in Lord of the Flies painted a scary picture of how children would behave if left totally to their own devices.
So I believe that as a society we should try to understand what it really is to be kind. Kindness is linked to so many aspects of life, and if we are to tackle bullying, help children build strong self esteem and create a better world for the future we need to teach them what being kind is really all about.
Kindness on the curriculum
Sadly many children are brought up in households that are far from kind. If they haven’t experienced it themselves how can we expect them to behave kindly towards others?
It is futile just to tell children to be kind without an explanation and discussion of what kindness really is. They need to comprehend why it is necessary to enable us to flourish in communities, and as a society.
So let’s teach our children to Be Kind – not just by telling them but also in class discussion – becoming more detailed and philosophical at each Key Stage.
Citizenship is the ideal area of the curriculum to place kindness.