Dr. Sue Swearer is the Willa Cather Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who has chaired Born This Way Foundation’s Research Advisory Board and led the Born Brave Experience research with assistance from Raul Palacios, Ed.S, a Doctoral Student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
No one is born knowing how to be kind. Teaching kindness early in life is important for yourself, your family, your school, the people you work with, and your community! Below are a few examples of how people can teach, practice, and show kindness throughout their lives.
Individuals: An important part of kindness is being intentional with your actions. “Self-care” is one way that you can be kind to yourself. Self-care includes taking care of your own mental and physical health. Take time to be kind to yourself by putting time aside to do the things you enjoy. It seems logical that being kind to other people is easier when you are happy and kind to yourself.
Families: Depending on your family situation, being kind to the people who you spend your day-to-day life with may be easier for some than others. However, there are many things that different family members can do to work towards a kinder home. First, kindness is a teachable behavior! This means that parents and older adults (e.g., grandparents, aunts and uncles, older siblings and cousins) can model ways to be kind to others. Second, don’t yell at one another. Being angry/irritated/frustrated/ is completely normal, but you have the ability to control how you react to a difficult situation. Take the time to give yourself some alone time + space to think about appropriate ways to handle the situation before lashing out. Third, be mindful of your family, their spaces, and your family roles. This can vary from doing your chores on time to asking how you can help around the house. Kindness is about being intentional with your words and actions in your home.
Schools: It takes a lot of people to make a kind school. Just think of all the different people and their roles such as the school principal, the school administration, teachers, janitors, lunch crew, students, parents, the librarian, etc.! Principals can demonstrate kindness by recognizing the hard work that the teachers are doing, and teachers can pass on that kindness to their students. Educators can create kindness activities into their daily lesson plans. Educators can also call out the kind behaviors that they see, instead of focusing only on negative behaviors. Students can also show kindness to other students by talking nicely to one another, or by making sure that everyone at school has someone to hang out with. Students can also show kindness to their teachers by going to class prepared and ready to learn!
Workplaces: Work can be super stressful, so it is important to create a kind work environment! You can show your co-workers kindness by simply displaying gratitude for their role in your workplace. If there are times when you or your co-workers feel overworked, feel free to take time to offer your support. If you are a manager or administrator, teach your new employees their work responsibilities and offer support when they are learning new on-the-job skills! If you are a trainee, be sure to thank your trainer for their support!
Communities: Being kind to a community member can go a long way and can be as easy as giving a friendly hello or smile. If you have time, volunteer at a local organization. You can also get involved at local community events, fairs, and farmers markets to demonstrate community support. You can also do your part to keep your neighborhood clean. Most importantly, intentionally speak kindly to everyone!
Being a community member is not only about where you physically live! Don’t forget about your online community, too! You can be kind by committing to make a kinder online space. Take the Hack Harassment pledge to commit to stand up for people in need and to help keep them safe: https://www.hackharassment.com/pledge/.