Kindness is at the heart of the heart centred teacher and it flows into everything we do. It is the concrete expression of our core values. There is a saying about ‘when the why is clear, the how is easy’. Why are we so committed to offering an exceptional quality of care and education for young children?
Because we know that the experiences children have in the early years last them a lifetime, and that the most important things we can offer are emotional security and warm, connected relationships. When these are our ‘why’s, then kindness is the perfect ‘how’.
A programme with kindness at its core nurtures children and values them as individuals. It goes over and above to make sure their emotional needs are met. It values heart qualities and knows that when kindness is shown, children are absorbing this kindness into part of who they are.
What is kindness?
Kindness is warm. It welcomes a child and makes them feel at ease. It makes the move away from their home base more comfortable, and allows them to feel safe to engage in activity.
Kindness is intuitive, unhurried and unobtrusive. It takes its lead from the child. It allows time, space and listening for emotions to be felt and aired.
Kindness honours the spirit of the child. It takes careful steps. It acknowledges that a wee spirit is easily crushed. Kindness watches a child’s body language closely, knowing that not all message are conveyed in words.
Kindness asks the question ‘how would I like it’ to guide decision making. It follows the concept of treating others as you’d like to be treated. It is more than lip service - it has to be truly felt if it is to be truly shown.
Kindness respects a child’s timetable, their choices, their timeframe for settling in, and their rhythm. It puts faith in the child to drive their own development. There is no mould to fit or ‘one way‘ to do things, and children deeply feel that it is ok to be themselves.
Kindness is about establishing a culture where making mistakes is accepted, even welcomed. Compassion for each other is golden, but so is compassion for oneself. Permission to make mistakes is freeing, and allows real growth.
Kindness is not to be misinterpreted as permissiveness. They are not one and the same.
Kindness is expected as well as given.
It recognises that mistakes in learning also apply to behaviour and interactions. Social skills take time to develop and social mis-steps and clumsiness are par for the course.
However, children both need to know and want to know the appropriate behaviours for our community and limits and expectations are clear. The limits are clear, but the child is not left alone in their quest to meet the expectations. There is support, patience and inclusion.
We show trust in the child’s ability to find their way through. Kindness isn’t a reward for the ‘right’ behaviours, it is the path to the child learning to act kindly. We all have an emotional fuel tank. Children learn that acting kindly has the dual benefit of filling the tank of both the recipient and the giver.
There is more to the environment at our places than the prepared physical setting.
As much consciousness is put into the preparation and maintenance of the social and emotional climate.
Look beyond the furniture to the interactions you see, listen to the children’s words, notice the care of each other.
Kindness should be oozing out of the very foundations of the programme. It is in the actions of all who inhabit the space.
This is how we show our commitment to our children. If ever we need to bring kindness back to the fore, we only need to go back inside ourself to the child we once were - the child who sought connection, fumbled along the way and longed to be heard.
Remembering this child really takes us to the heart of what is important, and deep in our hearts we know that kindness matters most of all.
(This article was adapted from a previously published blog post 'Kindness, honouring the spirit of the child')
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