November marks World Kindness Day, observed for over twenty years in many countries, including the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, Nigeria, and the United Arab Emirates. Through the begin to ECSEL program, overseen by Housman Institute, Beginnings School has been actively promoting kindness since our inception, not only because of its societal importance but also because of its importance in the development of one’s sense of self.
A recent article published in the Atlantic speaks to the importance of kindness and how it sets children up for a lifetime of success, both personally and professionally. Caregivers, both parents and early childhood teachers, play a critical role in this development and it is important that we model kindness rather than simply state its importance.
This principle, which is so integral to the emotional, cognitive, social early learning program, begin to ECSEL, is echoed in the article by authors and co-parenting team, Adam and Allison Grant. They point to a recent report from the Harvard Graduate School of Education which surveyed American parents about what they want for their kids. Not surprisingly, more than 90% say one of their top priorities is that their children be caring. Interestingly, when children were asked what they thought their parents most valued, 81% say their parents value achievement and happiness over caring.
The researchers who discovered this discrepancy identified that kids learn what’s important to adults not by listening to what we say, but by noticing what garners our attention. In response, Grant and Grant say, “however much we praise kindness and caring, we’re not actually showing our kids that we value these traits.”
Here, at the training, research and advocacy organization, Housman Institute, we value kindness, empathy and compassion as central pillars of our unique begin to ECSEL program. As a part of our program, we train teachers to recognize the immense importance of modeling positive, prosocial behaviors and providing positive reinforcement when children exhibit the same. What we accomplish through the begin to ECSEL program is especially important today in light of recent studies that have seen a decline in empathy and personal responsibility to help others.
We, as educators, don’t focus solely on achievements, but rather the child and the complex emotionality behind them. Grant and Grant rightly identify that “the point is not to badger kids into kindness, or dangle carrots for caring, but to show that these qualities are noticed and valued.” Children are born ready to absorb the world around them, and begin to ECSEL guides them towards a path of kindness by helping children learn to identify, express, understand and regulate their own emotions and those of others. A major part of this process is then teaching the children to understand the emotionality of others.
Grant and Grant recently report in a piece for the New York Times “teaching children to care about others might be the best way to prepare them for a successful and fulfilling life.” We at Housman Institute could not agree more.
As Grant and Grant said, “of course, we should encourage children to do their best and to take pride and joy in their accomplishments — but kindness does not require sacrificing those things.” Through the begin to ECSEL program we help children become kinder and more empathetic citizens of the world by giving these virtues the attention they merit.