Building Empathy in children: Do you have kind eyes?

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Empathy

Empathy

Kind eyes doesn’t mean you are a soft touch. Kind eyes doesn’t mean people can walk all over you. Kind eyes simply mean you care. You care about yourself and you care for those you meet. Care doesn’t mean you love or even like them. Care means you take a moment to perhaps think of the bigger picture in that you haven’t walked in their shoes and you don’t live their life. Kind eyes grasp fundamentally that everyone is unique and therefore not everyone can get on like best friends. Kind eyes understand that not every battle needs a full onslaught. Kind eyes realise that at times saying nothing or walking away is the best option. Kind eyes look out for others. Kind eyes don’t presume at the first instant the worst possible case on meeting someone that they don’t quite gel with. Kind eyes seek to understand what some else may be feeling. Kind eyes don’t agree with everything but will try an understand a different point of view.

Over the last few months I’ve had some great insights working alongside children of all ages on a project called ‘Kind Eyes’. I’ve spent many hours listening to children, teenagers, bullies and the victims of bullying trying to find set patterns of behaviour as to why bullying and not so good behaviour towards others occurs. As of yet I have nothing that is 100 per cent conclusive.  There are the usual patterns of mimicking behaviour, feeling inferior, jealousy and a lot of “I don’t knows” from the children.

Like many behaviour patterns there are so many individual factors to consider. The kind eyes project is still in its infancy but so far the results have been pretty amazing. The general gist is that by talking with children about ‘kind eyes’ it makes them emotionally aware of their own feelings and creates empathy and compassion towards others. They become not only responsible for themselves but inherit a strong sense of justice towards their class as a whole. A team the looks out for each other. Kind Eyes see another human person. Kind eyes are seeing from the heart. Kind eyes don’t care what you look like, what your religion is or what team you support, kind eyes are open to connect with respect that works both ways. Kind eyes know it’s ok to be different as that’s what makes us uniquely who we are.

Kind eyes everyday

Kind eyes everyday

 Building Empathy in Children

Teaching children empathy is not a one off lesson but a lesson that has to be repeated daily both at home and at school. If we want the next generation to have empathy and compassion towards others and themselves then it has to be demonstrated as much as possible. On arriving into class everyday and prior to recess and leaving for home. The children are reminded to have their kind eyes ready. By reminding a class of children to be aware of their own actions and those of others, the schools have seen a very substantial decrease in the amount of bullying going on. By making a child responsible not only for their own actions and making them take note if they see someone else in trouble and to speak up about it, we create a classroom where although as in life not everyone gets on, everyone is to an extent keeping an eye on everyone backs. Teaching children to have kind eyes takes reminding and practice every day.

Kind eyes is a compassionate way of looking at the world around you.  It allows children to see how others are feeling and how their actions and words can effect those they are with. It does not mean you have to go out of your way to do a kind act everyday because when you use your kind eyes it becomes second nature to be kind. Initially you have to slow down whilst you get the hang of using kind eyes. I tell the children it’s the new super power, they rush to tell me what they have done with their kind eyes, they are happier that they are helping others they are taking the time in hectic world to make a difference , this makes me less scared of the future for my kids, I hope they raise a generation with kind eyes too.

Kind eyes

Kind eyes

 

How do you teach kindness?

 

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Nathalie Brown

Child Behaviour Consultant at Easy Peasy Kids
Child Behaviourist and researcher. Creator of "Less tantrums. More smiles". I look at the bigger picture and think outside the box when working with children and their behaviour. Their world is different. As adults we sometimes forget this. Happiness Creator in my spare time. Eater of chocolate and cake.

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Comments

  1. Denyse Whelan says:

    Nathalie, that is so good to read & re-read. Teaching the “kind eyes” concept is simply an effective tool for all humans to understand. I think we “teach” kindness by every day examples. Not a once a week lesson or moral story. We teach by Modelling…. Children see & hear kindness… They will emulate.
    Wonderful work! Will follow with great interest.
    Denyse ????????????

  2. Carmel Corry says:

    Love this article! Sharing if I can :)

  3. Is it possible that these are made into printable A4 document to download. It would be a great resource for schools and the home.

  4. Kind eyes can make such a difference. A lovely way to frame empathy.

  5. Alison says:

    I really really like this but I also think its about showing empathy in return – I dont feel you can expect children to show you or others unconditional empathy just because you are their adult/parent, or a teacher/older person in their community, if you do not show the utmost respect to what they feel and what they too want and would like. Its about changing how everyone works, not just children. The PDF’s would be really useful – I would love to have these up at home – and send them to my ex-husband (we are being put through court enforced therapy at the moment because of court action he took against me and these could really help move our process forward I hope). I really love some of your words in the first paragraph – was in tears at some of the meanings and the value I place on those things.

    • Definitely empathy needs to be shown in return, respect is a two way relationship. It is up to the adults to role model an empathic and respectful nature.

  6. I love the kind eyes concept. With my boys I try to build empathy by modelling it and by talking a lot about feelings. “So that girl fell over at school and hurt herself? How do you think she felt? How do you think she might have felt if someone had offered to help her up?” I can always see their little minds thinking it over – hopefully it’s doing some good. Cheers Leanne

    • That’s brilliant Leanne, you can also do this with reading and diverting from the story, what do you think they would feel if this happened. Such an important area of development.

  7. Love child.
    I’m from Brazil and I’m happy to see initiatives like this, so people are able to move the world, great job.
    Nathalie you won this time a fan, congratulations and you continue with these attitudes who value the human being.

  8. oh I love this… ‘kind eyes’ is such a simple term that can mean so much and so understandable even for little kids…

  9. What a gorgeous post! I just love the sound of how you’re implementing the kind eyes project. It is especially useful that you have provided children with not just words and understanding but also a practical way to go about implementing it in all arenas of their lives. I agree that teaching children empathy is a daily lesson in life and it starts from birth. Our favourite Prep integrated unit that we’d do each term four with students was called a A Time For Giving. It focused on empathising with those less fortunate, and look at ways that they can make a difference to the lives of others. The culminating event of this unit incorporated the launch of the K-Mart Wishing Tree, and the raising of funds to spend on gifts for less fortunate families.
    I’d love the kind eyes at all schools!

  10. We are trying to teach our children empathy, it is a long and sometimes difficult process. I will be giving your ‘kind eyes’ approach a go. Thank you

  11. Quite simply, ‘kind eyes’ says so much and is a lovely way to help children better understand how others feel. Love the posters too!

  12. Nae adventuresathomewithmum says:

    I love the premises behind kind eyes. This should be a necessary part of a child’s up bringing
    ,

  13. When I was teaching I was also responsible for the pastoral care of about 150 teenage girls. Bullying was an on-going and daily issue. It’s just like you said, a lot of jealously and feeling inferior but I also found the dynamics within a peer group were incredibly important to these teens and when those dynamics changed (for whatever reason, whether real or perceived) this usually resulted in bullying. We spent a lot of time with the girls talking about how our actions make other people feel. It was always the case that the bully never truly wanted to hurt the other person, just that their peer dynamics had shifted in some way (they felt wronged in some way) and bullying was the way they would reinstate their position within their peer group (or create a new position within a new group). Once they were able to see this and identify the real reason for the bullying it almost always stopped.

    I like what you have written here and I really like what Leanne said about asking a child ‘I wonder how she would have felt if someone had helped her?’, encouraging the child to have empathy for another person. I think this could be a really powerful approach, I’m going to remember this.

    • Friendship dynamics can get complicated with children, especially teens also adding in hormones and their different developmental stages. Sounds like you did a fab job with all 150 of them.

  14. What a wonderful initiative! I love the concept and the thought behind ‘kind eyes’. So important as i find it is such a difficult thing to ‘teach’. I’d also love a copy of your words if that is possible. Thanks for sharing this x

  15. Heidi says:

    I love this!! Being kind, empathetic and compassionate are in my opinion the most important qualities for us all to have. Could I please get a copy emailed to me, I would love to share with my sons Kinder.

  16. Sherridan Broadhurst says:

    I love this, such an important character trait to install and encourage in our children. I work in early childhood education and would love a copy of the PDF to share with, children, parents and colleagues. Never to young to start, I say.

  17. This is brilliant and simple. Maybe this is what I need to do! At.this point of time, I feel like I am looking my children. They are young and already despise me. I nag too much, always nagging to get them to help me to do simple chores like pick up their own clothes off the floor and put into the laundry.basket or put their lunch box into the sink. Since.that hasn’t been happening, I’ve decided to do it own my own but get.furious if the mess up what I have cleaned.

Trackbacks

  1. […] own actions and the repercussion of their actions. I’ve been trialling ‘Kind Eyes’ http://www.easypeasykids.com.au/6839/blogging/building-empathy-in-children-do-you-have-kind-eyes/ which has great success in reducing bullying incidents. Power asymmetries unfortunately are part of […]

  2. […] The influence we have as parents in shaping our children‘s acceptance of others is nothing short of miraculous. It can supersede peer pressure, if we place a strong enough value on acceptance of another human being whatever their unique differences are . Educating children on acceptance of others and of themselves creates a sense of justice, when you have a sense of justice you create a better and kinder world. […]

  3. […]  before Christmas, the Happier You Program, workshops on child behaviour and the pilot scheme of Kind Eyes instilling emotional values for others to reduce bullying going ahead and being  implemented […]

  4. […]  The writer wishes to remain anonymous as friendship dynamics are difficult both at school and at times with other parents. I believe that children need to know that any type of bullying is not acceptable. Working with younger children I’ve observed that at times they don’t realise how much their words or actions are upsetting another child. Speaking at home and at school to children about what bullying is, should be talked about daily. How their words and actions can hurt very much on the inside. I promote Kind Eyes.  […]

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