Teaching Small Acts of Kindness

Tips by Teachers for Teachers

“Thank you!”  “Can I help you with that?”  “I love your art project!” It is pretty amazing that these are the words of first graders. What is even more amazing is that they are choosing to use these words without prompting. As a mother of two grown children, a public school teacher for 22 years, and the Children’s Ministry leader at my church I have been afforded plenty of opportunities to observe kids.  I have seen that when children are both expected and given the tools to be kind they will choose kindness.  This requires intentional instruction, consistent modeling, and practice. Here are my best three tips.

1, Teach Kindness

If we expect children to be kind we must help them understand what kindness is and give them the tools to do so.  They need opportunities to visit about what being kind looks like, sounds like, and how it feels to receive and show kindness. When adults and children have a shared understanding of what it means to be kind, they have no excuse.  How do we develop this common understanding, though? We Choose Virtues is an amazing curriculum that gives educators and parents a framework to teach children the tools they need to be kind and exhibit other important virtues. This curriculum helps children become positive and successful individuals.

2. Model Kindness

Children are stealthy little observers.  Not much gets by them!  We can use their tendency towards imitation as a means to change their behavior.  Modeling kindness is the most powerful technique available for instilling kindness in children.  When children observe strong values in those they trust and admire, they will yearn to imitate them.  This starts with us.  When children are shown kindness, love, empathy, and acceptance they will be more likely to demonstrate the same to others.   This can be as simple as meeting children at the classroom door each day with a hello, hug, and caring word to show them the kindness they deserve.

3. Provide Opportunities to Show Kindness

No one denies that proficiency requires practice.  The same is true when learning how to be kind. There are many opportunities throughout our school day to practice kindness. In our classroom, I make sure parent volunteers enter to 27 sweet little voices greeting them with a “hello” and leave with the same voices saying, “thank you.”  When birthday snacks are handed out, children have been taught to look each other in the eyes when saying, “thank you” and “you’re welcome.” Hurt feelings at recess become a learning opportunity where the child calmly expresses his or her emotions instead of lashing out violently.

These seem like simple fixes, but teaching kindness requires focusing on the small details. Reading, math, and writing are important to learn at school, but learning virtues are as well. By teaching, modeling, and practicing kindness your children will choose to answer the question “to be kind or not to be kind?” with an affirmative, “We choose to be kind!”

~Tessi Sims

Harrisburg (Oregon) Elementary School, Grade 1 Teacher

And the Oregon Small School Association, 2017 Teacher of the Year (Click to read about this awesome teacher)

Start Their Day with Kindness

Tips by Teachers for Teachers

Kindness in the classroom is so important to me. Here are some tips that have helped me lead my students there every day.

It all starts with with a morning meeting (The Morning Meeting Book by Roxann Kriete and Carol Davis). Our morning meeting encourages unity, and when students feel united they treat each other with kindness and respect.

  1. We greet each other with a friendly handshake, a smile, and a “good morning!”
  2. Before students sit, they are given a prompt which often asks them to recognize another student for something positive. For example, “Tell about a time that one of your classmates did something thank-worthy.”  We go around the circle and share our answers to the prompt.
  3. The students sit by someone different every day, they memorize each other’s names, and it creates an atmosphere of respect and belonging.

Because we start our day off immediately speaking kindly to each other and hearing each other’s stories, it sets the tone for every other part of our day.  When they are all treating each other with kindness it creates a safe space in our classroom to learn and try new things without fear of being judged or laughed at.

When the students leave at the end of the day they may not remember what math facts or comprehension skills we covered, but they will remember how they were treated and how they felt.

I always want my students to look forward to returning to class each day, that’s why it’s so important to set a standard of kindness in my classroom.

-Jessica Wolpe, Pleasant Hill Elementary School, Oregon

Beautiful Bible Verses about Kindness

Resources for Faith-Based Families and Classrooms

Bible Stories that Display Kindness

  • The Shunemite woman cares for Elisha (2 Kings 4:8-36)
  • Boaz and Ruth (Book of Ruth)
  • David and the house of Saul (2 Samuel 9:1-7)
  • Jesus and the children (Matthew 19:13-14)

Verses in the Bible about Kindness

1 Samuel 20:14

But show me unfailing kindness like the LORD’s kindness as long as I live, so that I may not be killed,

Nehemiah 9:17

They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them.

Job 10:12

I’ll say to God, ‘You gave me life. You were kind to me. You took good care of me. You watched over me.’

Psalm 117

Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD.

Psalm 119:76

May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.

Proverbs 31:26

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.

Isaiah 54:8, 10

In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

Habakkuk 3:2

Even when you are angry, remember to be kind.

Zechariah 7:9

“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.

Luke 6:35 

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Acts 28:2

The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.

Romans 2:4

Don’t you realize how patient he is being with you? Or don’t you care? Can’t you see that he has been waiting all this time without punishing you, to give you time to turn from your sin? His kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.

1 Corinthians 13:4

Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud

2 Corinthians 6:6

…In purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love;

Galatians 5:22-23

But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; and here there is no conflict with Jewish laws.

Ephesians 2:7

in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 4:32

Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ.

Philippians 2:1-4

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit,if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Colossians 3:12

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

1 Thessalonians 5:15

Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

Titus 3:4-6

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.

1 Peter 2:3

Now that you realize how kind the Lord has been to you, put away all evil, deception, envy, and fraud. Long to grow up into the fullness of your salvation

You can also go to We Choose Virtues to purchase a download with memory verse cards for all 12 of the virtues we teach.

Favorite Quotes about Kindness

Resources for Families and Classrooms


“Kindness consists in loving people more than they deserve.” ~ Joseph Joubert

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~ Leo Buscaglia

“Kindness is the attitude – Gentleness is the action behind the attitude.” ~ Joyce Meyer

“Kindness is love in the little things.”  ~ Adrian Rogers

“Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are.” ~ Author Unknown

“Be kinder than necessary- Everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” ~ Plato

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. ~ Mother Teresa

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” ~ Henry James

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” ~ Mother Teresa

“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” ~ Mark Twain

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” ~ Aesop

“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention.” ~ Kahlil Gibran, The Essential Kahlil Gibran

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”  ~Leo F. Buscaglia

“Be kind to unkind people – they need it the most” ~ Ashleigh Brilliant

“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” ~ Scott Adams quotes

“Kindness is more than deeds. It is an attitude, an expression, a look, a touch. It is anything that lifts another person.” ~ Unknown

“I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” ~ Stephan Grellet

“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” ~ Proverbs 14:31 NIV

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou

“Kindness is difficult to give away because it keeps coming back” ~ Unknown

“Spread love everywhere you go: First of all in your own house… let no one ever come ~ to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness.”  ~ Mother Teresa

“Kindness is never wasted. If it has no effect on the recipient, at least it benefits the bestower.”  ~ S. H. Simmons

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,” ~ Colossians 3:12

“You can gain more friends by being yourself than you can by putting up a front. You can gain more friends by building people up than you can by tearing them down. And you can gain more friends by taking a few minutes from each day to do something kind for someone, whether it be a friend or a complete stranger. What a difference one person can make!” ~ Sasha Azevedo

“Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses” ~ Confucius

“Kind hearts are the gardens, Kind thoughts are the roots, Kind words are the flowers, Kind deeds are the fruits, Take care of your garden And keep out the weeds, Fill it with sunshine Kind words and kind deeds” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness.” ~ Charlie Chaplin


Special thanks to Sherry Andrew for compiling this list.


Kindness Leads

A Virtue Reflection for Kids


The minute I saw her I was wary.

I was just a girl walking into the hallway of my kindergarten class, getting my daily folder out of my cubbie. She was new. A petite girl with lots of curly blond hair, smiling and chatting with my best friend. I suddenly saw my plan of spending recess exclusively with Angie vanishing. So many things went through my mind while I stood by the coat rack taking off winter layers and feeling replaced. Who is this girl with MY friend?

Angie leaned her head down to speak quietly in my rival’s ear. All I heard of the conversation was “It’s Ok, you can take it off. No one will laugh.” Then turning to me, she said, “Heather, this is my friend”. I didn’t hide my reluctance and I’m sure Angie could see I was going to be difficult because she called me out. “She just needs a friend. Everyone needs to be very nice.”

Suddenly the new girl reached up and slowly pulled her pretty blond hair off, revealing a smooth white head. I had never seen a child this way before. I had so many questions I wanted to ask. Angie put the wig in her own cubby and glanced around at the group of us standing there. “She’s fighting cancer.” Was the only information we were given, and with that my best friend put her arm around the new girl’s shoulders and walked into the classroom. As the rest of us followed, I found myself a bit ashamed of my selfishness. Angie was officially the kindest person I knew and I felt honored to be ONE of her friends.  There was not a single incident of rude behavior from any of us in Mrs. Pullman’s Kindergarten class that day, because we were following Angie. Kindness leads.

When I was in first-grade, a homeless cat had kittens in our garage. The first clue that they were there was a sweet little “meow” coming from behind our freezer. My brothers freed two of them from their hiding place without any coaxing, but the littlest one was stranded and I was just sure it was afraid for its very life! I lay down with my cheek to the floor and tried to see it with one eye. I tried to reach it for the better part of an hour, but it stayed just outside my grasp. I couldn’t even entice it with a cat’s most famous delights (a bowl of milk and a ball of yarn, of course!)

At last, it moved toward me just a step and I pulled it to safety. I snuggled it, kissed it, and pretty much taught it everything I knew before supper. Looking back, I wonder how it survived my great love. Even though every time I put it down it retreated behind the freezer again, I kept trying…because kindness leads.

So, if kindness leads, where does the Kindness of God lead us? It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. He knows that repentance is a forever-gift; a priceless treasure made possible by His own sacrificial love. His kindness then, leads us to more kindness. The trust developed is never taken advantage of. His kindness leads us to His heart.

God’s Kindness is a lot like these two stories. His kindness challenges our mindsets and causes us to have a change of heart, showing us what it looks like to be selfless, making us dissatisfied with ourselves which motivates us to grow. He also calls us out of hiding, rescuing us from ourselves.  He doesn’t force Himself upon us, but like a gentleman, His kindness keeps reaching out even though we keep retreating to our freezer.

Titus 3:3-5 is a Bible verse that says “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy.”

Dear reader, I encourage you, take one step toward Him. Let Him pull you out of that place that has been a shelter only because it is familiar. Let Him lead you to be vulnerable and even uncomfortable in His warm and loving embrace. Let Him inspire selflessness. Let His kindness lead.

~Heather McMillan


Question: Where has kindness led you?

Perseverance is My Super-Power

Virtue Refections by author Heather McMillan

It’s a new year! If you are like me, you have dreams you want to live. Things you want to accomplish. But very often annoying hindrances get in the way.

My personal biggie is my health. I have a kidney transplant that is plugging away at 22% function, I’m a cancer survivor and recently, I have been dealing a UTI infection since August. Every day I have to decide if I’m going to push through or take it easy. If I push through, my body fights me. If I take it easy, my mind fights me. I continually need to remind myself that I have HOPE in my God, and I can courageously face each day in His grace… whether resting or pushing.

Out of this, I have grown to appreciate the skill of perseverance. It has become my go-to. My default. You might call it my super-power (if I had one, that would be it!) I can pull that cape out of the closet any time. It has a well-worn, familiar fit, like an athlete’s bat, ball, glove or shoes. Perseverance is my equipment. I never leave home without it.

I am not suggesting that you push through life in your own strength. You will just burn out! We need each other, we need the grace of God, and yes, we need the heart of an overcomer. Life, relationships, bills, diets, housework, kids, that book you want to write, those plans you made, all of them take a certain “I can do it even when its tough” attitude to get the win. They all require perseverance.

Dear reader, I challenge you this month, to think, say and believe “I can.” a little bit more, and teach the kids in your life to do the same. Dust off that old courage you once carried, and start taking steps toward living those dreams. 2017 is going to be very special if you do.

Blessings on this beautiful January, my friends!
Heather McMillan

What are you persevering through?

Confessions of Joey’s Bully

A Virtue Reflection by author Heather McMillan

I am just sitting here wondering…would there be bullies if we taught character?

Bullying is a systemic problem. It ranges from the trifling to the atrocious, but I challenge you to poll children of any age, race, gender, socio-economic status, or family structure. I believe you will find children who are bullied and children who bully amongst them all. It is a human condition. The only way to stop it is for us to stop being…well, to stop being so terribly human.

God help us.

What if we taught virtue? Virtue is goodness. Goodness introduced into human nature could very well get this epidemic under control. Am I suggesting that children aren’t already good? They simply aren’t good enough.

They don’t recognize or value character.

There are so many things that we say to flatter children. We tell them how smart, pretty or athletic they are, but they have little or no control over these things. Children want to be taught.They want to be better than they are. They want to change. They want discipline and encouragement. They want to be successful at something that MATTERS. Don’t flatter them. Teach them character.

Character training involves teaching virtues such as kindness, perseverance, contentment, honesty, patience, and self-control. It is teaching our students to choose it, use it, and honor it in themselves and others. Holding our students to this standard will help them show genuine respect for things they never noticed about themselves and their fellow students. It will build self-confidence that isn’t artificially stimulated.

“…And the world would be a better place.”

I know something about this. Joey taught me.