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

Breaking BOSSY (Teaching Kids to Lead)

Resources for Families

I was not the first born in my family, but I was the first girl, and needless to say, I had a great affection for running the household. One of my special skills was making chores fun so my siblings would agree to do them with me (Or for me? Maybe. Sometimes.)

I adored my little sisters and loved planning outfits for them. One day, when I was twelve, my precious little six-year-old sister looked up at me and said “I don’t have to wear that. YOU’RE NOT MY MOM.” and that was the end of fashion-plates for me!

*Sigh* I might have had control issues.

As a mom who has one daughter and three sons, I discovered very early that she was quite capable of leading and they were happy to let her…unless they weren’t and then there was trouble. Been there?

I was very sick for a number of years when my kids were little. It seems like I relied on them quite a bit to help me keep the household going while daddy was working. Training them to cooperate became a necessity, but there were was a lot of selfishness, manipulating, arguing, and that sort of thing.  I really wanted my kids to love each other. I wanted them to be able to lead each other. I know that to lead you must understand authority, where it comes from and how to handle it properly. I decided I needed my kids to have a deeper understanding and respect for it, and not just use it without permission.

Authority belongs to God and it is simply on loan to us. Hmmm…makes me wonder if I’m representing.

With this in mind, I came up with an idea we call “Temporary Limited Authority” and by God’s grace it has really helped our family. It goes something like this:

  1. I have been given the authority to tell my children what to do. I’m the mom.
  2. You (child) do not have the authority, because you are not the mom.
  3. I might lend you a little of my authority, but first I must see you obeying me. (see Obedient Virtue). A person is qualified to lead when they learn to follow.
  4. The authority I lend you is on a temporary basis (a certain amount of time, or a certain task) and it is limited (it only pertains to this time or task, not everything in their life that you want to dictate). This can increase or decrease depending on how you handle it.
  5. When you have Temporary Limited Authority you must say “Mom said” at the beginning of the instruction so your brothers and sisters KNOW it is coming from mom. Then they will obey you the same way they obey me (hopefully the children are growing in this skill!)
  6. I love my children very much and I show it by how I talk to them. You must use my authority the way I would. (see the Kind and Gentle Virtues)
  7. In order to lead, you must be willing to follow when I lend my authority to one of your siblings. This works both ways!

Here is a scenario that might help you picture how this could work in your home. Let’s say you need the kitchen cleaned and you give your son Temporary Limited Authority to get it done.

  1. He finds his siblings.
  2. He tells them that “Mom said” he is in charge of getting the kitchen cleaned.
  3. He doles out the jobs (Or you do, and then you reiterate that he is in charge)
  4. Everyone goes to work at it. (These are jobs they already know how to do, although, I have asked my older kids to teach my youngers how to do chores)
  5. He supervises and encourages them while he is helping get it done.
  6. When it is done, he asks for an inspection before any of the kids leave the kitchen.
  7. You come in and inspect the job (You can’t expect what you don’t inspect)
  8. If there was fighting, you talk to the kids about what went wrong and help them understand how to respond to the leadership of their brother. (Sometimes we have to obey even when the leadership isn’t perfectly executed!)
  9. You also inspect his leadership, encourage him and help him see what he could have done to reduce any conflicts. (There may be a sibling who is deliberately un-cooperative but if he wants to lead, he has to learn to win her over.)
  10. Tell them you are proud of their effort!

It takes time to go through each step until it is working smoothly, but it is so worth it! You get help, your children become great leaders, and there is peace in your home because BOSSY is gone.

Happy Dance!

Heather McMillan

Prayer Jars

Tips on Growing Kids of Faith

I couldn’t survive this life without God.

I know He is real, present, and active in my life. I want my kids to develop the skill of asking Him for help, and watching for the miracles He does in ordinary life…then thanking Him well.

I was homeschooled when I was a child and we had morning devotions with my mother every day. After we read the Proverb of the day, we had a Prayer Jar that we passed around from which each of us drew 2-3 prayer requests. The requests included names of people we wanted to pray for each day like the president, our pastor, each family member, as well as prayer needs we heard about.

We would really pray for each one. Passionately believing that God heard us. As a child I personally saw many answers to prayer. It compelled me to depend on God and learn to trust Him in everything.

There were times our prayers weren’t answered the way we hoped. This gave my mom an opportunity to talk about God’s sovereignty, and His goodness when we didn’t see what He could see.

I hope this set of Prayer Jars will help your family to…

  •  Constantly watch for needs that God can meet.
  • Grow in compassion for others as you bring their needs to God.
  • Become more confident in prayer.
  • Strengthen your faith as you watch God answer prayers, large and small.
  • Develop a grateful heart and express your thankfulness to God.
  • Deepen your love and trust in God.

What to do:

  1.  Decorate two Jars. One says “Prayer Jar: Asking” the other says “Prayer Jar: Thanking”
  2. Make strips of paper and put them with some pens where everyone can find them.
  3. Write each prayer need and the date on a single strip of paper and add them to the Asking Jar.
  4. Pass the Asking Jar at any family meal, devotions, or maybe at bed time. Everyone can draw two or three to pray for each time. (Or pray for all of them every time if you choose) Then put the paper back in the Asking Jar for the next time.
  5. When God answers, shout Hallelujah and thank Him for His goodness as earnestly as you asked for it.
  6. Write the date on the back of the strip of paper and put it in the Thanking Jar.

What are your thoughts about teaching kids to pray?

How-To Guide: Virtue Flash Cards

In this episode of our How-To Guide series we go over the best ways to use the Virtue Flash Cards

The Virtue Flash Cards are full color, delightfully illustrated cards perfect for introducing, memorizing and reviewing the language of Virtue. They come complete with games that your whole family can play together.Tuck them in your bag and carry them everywhere you go…from the kitchen table to the mini-van! They are a convenient way to make sure the Virtue Kids, catchphrases, and antonyms go where your kids go so you can Simply Inspire Character…that lasts! 

These cards are included in the Homeschool Kit and Family Kit.

How to use this tool: 

  • Use these cards for quick teachable moments by holding one up when you see that someone needs to use it or when you want to give some encouragement.
  • Play the games on the game card to help reinforce or memorize the Virtue catchphrases and antonyms.
  • Give each child one card and let them lead the family in talking about that Virtue.
  • Anywhere you are, pull these cards out and go through them with your family. Nap time, a picnic at the park, family time, meal time, or while you are riding in the car!
  • Set a Virtue Flash Card on a child’s bed-stand when they need a little motivation. The Virtue Kids are here to help!

How-To Guide: The Three Rules Poster

In the first video of our How-To Guide series we are going over how to use the Three Rules Poster most effectively.

This poster is a sanity-saver for parents and teachers and parents who are teachers! Every classroom or home instruction you already use can find its place under one of these three rules. They are based on the three most important Virtues that a child needs to know. The Kids of VirtueVille are pictured next to each Virtue for easy reference. These simple rules will help you create a culture in your home or classroom that will eliminate confusion for everyone.  

The three rules cover three vital, civil responsibilities at a core level. Obey (Honor authority), Be Kind (Respect others), and Be a Helper (Be a good citizen).

    This poster is included in all of our Kits. 

HOW TO USE THIS TOOL:

  • Hang it in a prominent place
    for easy reference.
  • The rules are easy to remember. the first rule (Obey) is a one word rule, the second rule (Be Kind) is a two word rule, and so on.
  • Notice that the rules are in order of priority. If a child is helping but not obeying, they need to obey because Obey is the first rule.
  • Each time you give an instruction, ask the kids what rule it fits under.
  • Once the kids know the rules you should practice holding up one, two or three fingers to show them what rule you need them to use at any given moment. It works wonders!

Check out the poster by clicking here!