How to teach kindness and build the self esteem of our children.

‘Ask yourself: Have you been kind today? Make kindness your daily modus operandi and change your world.’ —Annie Lennox

As a parent and a teacher I want my own children and the children I teach to know how to be kind. I actually believe that kindness is the most important thing for children to feel fulfilled and happy themselves. Unkindness in others tells me that the person is actually unhappy, they are stressed or something in their life is not right. Emotional resilience is more important than academic success or sporting prowess because without it you will always feel unhappy.

I had a training day this week about building self confidence and self esteem with a wonderful speaker called Cat Williams. Do take a look at her site here

Building self confidence and emotional resilience helps children to feel fulfilled and happy in their own skin. In turn, this helps children to be able to be kind to others. In fact, having these things throughout our lives is essential for positive well being and mental health. Finding what makes you happy is all part of this so it is our job as parents and educators to help children to explore that. With this in mind, I thought I would blog about some of things I have learnt during my time working with children. I am not a professional counsellor and these opinions are my own but I have taught hundreds of children and hope some of these things may be useful to others.

Children can not be a great friend until they are friendly. They will not be able to show kindness unless they have experienced it for themselves.

Teaching kindness to our children
Kindness is the most important gift we can give our children.

As parents and teachers we ask children who their friends are. We ask them who they played with or if anyone was horrid to them. In other words, we are worried for children as we can often remember the time when we felt lonely or excluded and we don’t want our children to feel these things. But instead, perhaps we should be praising children for the friendly behaviour that will help them to see how to be friendly and kind. ” I loved the way you included everyone in your game! I think that Ben could see that you were being kind to him.” Or ” thank you for sharing your spade with your friend so that she could make a sandcastle too. That was a kind thing to do” Help your child to be friendly to other children so that they can see what being a good friend is like. Modelling is also important so be a friendly person yourself. Don’t exclude other parents, talk about others behind their backs or be nasty! It sounds obvious but as a teacher, I see this in adults all the time and then they can’t understand why their child is struggling. Show your child kindness. We love our children so showing love is easy but showing kindness can sometimes be forgotten.

Ask the right questions.

Don’t put words into your child’s mouth about how their day may have been especially if you are using negative words. For example, “Did that nasty boy bully you today?” or “Did you not have anyone to play with on the playground?” These types of questions make the child want to give you an answer! So they will possibly tell you what they think you want to hear and that is not always the truth. “Oh no I didn’t have anyone to play with!” (when actually they were very happily playing on their own or they were only alone for 5 minutes.) “Yes, that nasty boy bullied me!” (Actually he didn’t but he does have tricky behaviour sometimes so that’s what my parent must be asking me). Instead ask your child what they did today. Or ask them to name three things they loved doing today. Make it positive and your child will feel as if they have had a great day. Feeling positive about something helps children to have the mindset that will promote positive emotional growth.

Let your child try new things but don’t make them do things you wished you had done.

This is obvious but I see it all the time. We want our children to try new things like learning a new instrument or taking up knitting. What children don’t need is their Dad making them play rugby because Daddy almost made the England squad and feels disappointed that he didn’t. By all means take your child to rugby but don’t start questioning everything they are doing or criticising them. All this does is make your child feel bad about themselves. What Daddy should be doing is joining a rugby team himself as rugby makes him feel good! Find what makes you feel amazing and do that! For me, it’s gardening, skiing, teaching and being outside. I also love ecology and nature and remember sitting next to our garden pond when I was a child watching out for frogs….I still love this now!

It’s ok for your child to show emotion, including anger.

We need to ensure that children feel it’s ok to show how they feel. It’s ok to be cross or sad or very angry but it’s not ok to hurt others when we feel like that. That’s how I explain emotions to children. This week in school we have talked about positive feelings and I use emojis to describe them to children. Children often do not have the words to describe how they feel so it’s our job as adults to teach them. We talked about all the words that describe positive emotions such as friendly, fun, joyful and pride. It was interesting that the children knew many more words for negative feelings such as sadness, crying, shame, jealous, mean, guilty and frightened. It is valuable for children to talk about their negative emotions in a calm and non threatening way so, as a parent, I would try to do this after an event of anger focussing on how the event made them feel and what to do next time. Trying to talk to an angry child is not going to be a positive experience for anyone!

Give positive praise

We all remember the time we were told off by a teacher or parent because often it was scary. I expect you can’t remember what was said because the feeling of being frightened stopped you from listening. If you were to name one adult in your life growing up that was important to you, I expect it was an adult who made you feel special. They listened to you and showed you kindness. That’s the adult we need to be for our children. The adult who will take that extra time to really listen to children and to praise them for the small things that happen each day. It’s easier to ignore good behaviour isn’t it? But that’s the behaviour you need to comment on so that your child sees what is expected of them. If your child keeps doing something you don’t like then try to ignore it and praise them on the things you do like. For example, if your child keeps interrupting you, ignore them but if they say, excuse me, then look at them and smile and listen to what they have to say and tell them thank you for saying excuse me. If your child is eating beautifully at the table using their knife and fork let them know that you are proud of them for doing so! I often see parents completely ignoring their little ones until they do something “naughty” and then they stop ignoring them! This just makes children repeat that naughty behaviour to get their parents attention. It can seem silly at first but it really does work.

Tell them they are amazing!

I often tell children they are amazing and every time, every child glows. Children need to be told this to feel it. Try it with your own children. It really works! Try not to use words that describe their physical appearance such as beautiful, pretty, cute, handsome, “such a dude” etc. This just makes children feel that they have to be these things all the time to impress you. We can’t all be beautiful, pretty or cute all the time but we can be amazing.
We have a kindness pledge in our classroom so I thought I would end with this:
I pledge to myself
On this very day,
To try to be kind
in every way.
To every person,
Big or small,
I will help them,
if they fall.
When I love myself,
And others too,
That is the best,
That I can do.
Have a great weekend everyone.

Just Hannah Jane
Burnished Chaos



  • Great post! It certainly made me think, I love the idea of praising kindness, we should definitely do it more often with our kids. Hope you don’t mind me reblogging it 😊

  • Awwww so much love for this post! So important i think to emphasise to parents that children learn from them predominantly and if you are negative and not kid to others they will pick up on that! #stayclassymama

  • This is great! Asking the right questions is key. I’ve learned that I can’t ask, “How was your day” or “What did you do in school today?” because all I’ll get back is “good’ and “nothing”. Instead I ask them about their favorite part of their day or what they learned about in math/reading/science/gym or what book their teacher may have read to them or who they played with at recess. It charges their memory which leads to slightly longer conversations. Naturally, I keep it positive 😀

  • This really hit home with me. I’m going through a tough time with the terrible twos (soon to become threenager stage) at the minute and I’m really trying to give more praise when she’s good and listen and try to understand when she’s acting out instead of shouting or paying more attention when she’s having a tantrum.
    There’s some great tips here that I’ll also be trying as I’m already starting to see some improvement. Thank you x

    • You are welcome. I remember my friend telling me “it’s just a stage ” when my son was a terrible 2 year old and I wanted to throttle her! It’s a tough time and a real battle of wills at times but trust me, it IS just a stage! I used to try to think of parenting as my job to help me keep my temper. Of course, it didn’t always work but that helped too! Good luck. I loved mine at 3. Thank you for reading my post blog friend! X

      • You’re welcome, I enjoy your writing style 😊
        My patience is running thin this morning after being woken up at 5.30am 😔 I’m really hoping she goes for a nap early lol x

  • So important! I’ve found when a young person is truly confident they are kind. When they work on themselves they can be better human beings. #SharingTheBlogLove

  • Such a thorough informed post, I feel kindness to himself and to others are the most important things to teach my child. As you say how they feel about themselves will result in how they act. It’s a lovely lesson to promote. Thank you for linking to #stayclassymama xx

  • I really enjoyed your post. This is such an important topic and one I’m trying to tackle with my grandchildren. Have bookmarked it for future reference.

    • Sorry Suzanna I don’t know what I did there! I was going to say….do click on the link for other ideas… she was an excellent speaker and had some great ideas. Thank you for reading my post. X

      • Lol. It must be the sort of day to hit publish too soon. I’ve done it twice so far today!!!

  • This is such a wonderful post! I’ve noticed that our nursery are particularly good at asking the right questions with my son, and encouraging kind behaviour, and I’ve tried to learn from them. They’re great at talking about emotions too, which is important for me right now, as my son seems to have quite a few angry outbursts (not at nursery – only at home!). I think kindness and compassion are the most important things we can teach our children, so I’m trying to make sure my son learns it at an early age and it seems to be working so far – he’s very sensitive to other people and how they might be feeling. Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

    • What a kind reply! Thank you reading my post. I love preschoolers as they are such little sponges and are learning so quickly. Good luck with your little one. X

  • this is such a good post with some really good points. Ben is picking up on so much from us and I hope he becomes everything i hope for him! #sharingthebloglove

  • absolutely Love this! I totally agree, it is funny that most of the time I just count my blessings that my children are so kind, and always look out for others so beautifully and I forget to stop and think that maybe it is partly because we are so kind to them and to each other as a family. This post reminded me of that. #SharingtheBlogLove

    • Yes! Its showing our children that kindness is not a “one off” but a mantra for daily life. Thank you for reading my post and commenting. x

  • Yup there is so much wisdom in this post! I always make a point of telling my children when they’re being good, and it makes them so happy that I’ve noticed. It’s also a much nicer way of showing your kids how you want them to behave rather than just shouting when they do something wrong.
    When I drop my daughter off at school, I used to whisper to her that she is amazing & kind & capable, but I’ve recently started trying to get her to say it instead. “I’m amazing. I’m kind. I’m capable.” I know my inner dialogue says all kinds of horrible things to me, so I want her to get into the habit of saying nice things about herself and reassuring herself instead of tearing herself down. #sharingthebloglove

    • Oh what a fabulous mantra to give your daughter! Yes, getting in the habit of using words to say kind things is one thing we can teach children. Thank you for commenting. X

  • A really good post – you’re so right. I noticed a difference when I started really (possibly overly) praising my daughter for the positives rather than just shouting at her for being naughty, when we went through a difficult stage recently. It’s hard not to lose patience when I’m home with her all the time but it’s so important to praise kindness. #SharingtheBlogLove

    • Thank you for commenting. Yes, it is tricky to look for positives when all your want to do to scream at them (and yes, I have done this!) but it does work doesn’t it? x

  • This is such a interesting and thought provoking post. You make some wonderful points here. I think I do a lot of this anyway, but I am going to actively bring it to the forefront of my mind more. Thanks for sharing x #SharingTheBlogLove

  • This is an interesting, thought provoking post. It makes you consider thinking before speaking and what its like to model good behaviour. #SharingtheBlogLove

  • Such an important discussion. A topic I have been trying to raise with my oldest. Good points raised xx Thanks for linking up #bigpinklink

  • This is an excellent post, I couldn’t agree with it more! Children are like sponges and learn so much from us, I really do try my hardest to always be kind and thoughtful even to those who it may appear don’t deserve it. I want my children to realise that only their behaviour represents who they are, so even if others aren’t kind there’s no need to replicate their behaviour to be noticed. Thanks so much for sharing with #Blogstravaganza xx

  • Thank you for sharing this. I see so many parents just giving their children negative attention, and it makes me so sad. Granted, we only see snapshots into other people’s lives and so we don’t really know what goes on behind the scenes, but it’s sad that we don’t see more praise and encouragement given to children out in public.
    My son is 1.5, and he’s at a stage where he really is exploring and testing boundaries. It’s so easy to slip into a routine of saying no all the time and doing lots of telling off. That’s not the way to raise a happy friendly child though. Praise, encouragement, positive reinforcement all the way!

    • Hello Rachel, thank you for your kind comments. You are right about getting into the habit of giving positive praise! It’s the best thing for your child. Good luck and Thank you for reading my post. X

  • I LOVE THIS! Your dedication to your children shines through this article. It’s so essential, especially to the youngest of us, to learn and practice kindness as early as possible. I must share this. #SharingtheBlogLove

  • What a great lesson! Kindness is so important! Roald Dahl, in an interview, said this ( I hope you don’t mind the long quote):
    Dahl: “I think probably kindness is my number one attribute in a human being. I’ll put it before any of the things like courage or bravery or generosity or anything else.
    Brian Sibley: “Or brains even?”
    Dahl: “Oh gosh, yes, brains is one of the least. You can be a lovely person without brains, absolutely lovely. Kindness – that simple word. To be kind – it covers everything, to my mind. If you’re kind that’s it.”

  • I totally agree with you on all of this. I think it’s good to be reminded of how we talk and interact with our children and others at times and I am making an effort to do this with my daughter now as she has been struggling a bit recently #kcacols

  • Speaking kindly is something I have to work on with my son. He has autism and tends to say whatever is on his mind. It isn’t easy, but we are working on it. Modelling kindness is the best way though.#KCACOLS

    • Ah yes. I have worked with children with autism and they have been very kind but possibly need to be taught to show it to others. Good luck with your son and thank you for commenting. x

  • How wonderful to teach kindness as that is what makes the world a better place 🙂 I love the words on your kindness pledge 🙂 We should all show kindness with a smile 🙂

  • This is a great post, and definitely something I want to instill into my son as he grows up. #kcacols

  • Great tips. I’ll try them with my class x
    Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time.

  • I specially liked the part that it’s ok for kids to show emotions. Totally agree. <3

  • Oh what wise words. It is so lovely to read your experiences and your advice from the perspective of a teacher and of course a parent. The best parents I know are teachers! Learning to be kind to others from an early age is an invaluable life lesson. Also learning that it is ok to express emotions too. There are some great tips for us parents too – particularly about not sharing views on others in front of our children – although mine have radar ears so am sure they have picked up things even out of earshot to be honest. Note to self to be more careful. A great post. Love it. #TweensTeensBeyond

  • Very beautifully relevant this week for a whole host of reasons Cheryl. Particularly important for the children as they approach puberty as it can cause a little negativity in the kids and they become a bit partial to a moan. I’ve noticed the girly stuff upping it’s tempo a bit which is not something we have had to deal with yet but kindness goes a long way and I love your words. Thanks for joining us again at #tweenteensbeyond

  • Thank you. My name is not Cheryl but your comment is kind. I’m glad you like my post. I do really think that kindness comes before everything else. Thank you for reading. X

  • What an uplifting read, I really enjoyed this. I absolutely agree that the key to happiness is in the way we treat others. I also feel strongly that being a kind person is more important than academic success. If only there was GCSE in kindness! Thanks so much for sharing with us at #TweensTeensBeyond

    • I know….kindness and being creative is not recognised enough in schools……its all about results so no wonder children have such a tough time with their self esteem! Thank you for the lovely comment. x

  • Apologies – I used the wrong name. My mistake. However, I’ve just searched your website and don’t see it. Would love to be able to use it? I’m also updating our linky records so will add it there too. Nicky x #tweensteensbeyond

  • […] so hard to choose a winner but this week we have chosen a post from Old House In The Shires called How to teach kindness and build the self esteem of our children. This post is wonderfully uplifting and gives some great advice on raising teens. Do have a look […]

  • Love this post, I use all of these in parenting when I am mindful enough to do so.. Every night we ask what the best memory of the day was, too. A good way to implant the memories but can lead to talk if negative times too, resolving those if necessary.

  • I love this – there’s so much good advice which I will definitely be taking onboard

    • Thanks so much Stuart. I see that you are trying a more positive parenting aproach and I love that! Good luck.

  • I love this, all so very true. My 9yr old son has been really down lately and sees every day as a bad day. We started a new ritual every night before bed where we both list out three favourite things that happened to us that day and it really seems to be making a difference. He has always been incredibly kind but one of his best friends isn’t and gets into a lot of scrapes with their other friends and acting as the mediator all the time seems to be getting him down. I love that he sticks up for his friend and won’t follow the crowd when they all try to bully him and push him out but it’s so hard watching him be so upset all the time. I wish I could march in there and sort it all out but I know I can’t, I have to let them figure their own way through it and be here to listen. What I can do is show kindness at home and praise him for the same. Focusing on the positive moments of the day instead of the bad.
    Thank you for joining the #FamilyFunLinky x
    Alana – Burnished Chaos recently posted…#FamilyFunLinky Week 78My Profile

    • Ah Alana, that’s tough for you as well as him. Could you have a little chat with his teacher? They may be able to keep a little eye on what is happening and support him as he shouldn’t have to always mediate amongst his friends; he’s too young. It sounds like the 3 positive things before bed is helping too, I love that. Take care. X

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