• Home
  • -
  • It’s Cool to Be Kind

Wednesday Wisdom

It’s Cool to Be Kind

- Reflect -

It seems apt that in the run up to World Kindness Day (13th November), I happened to stumble across a brief article in the Guardian, written by television presenter Adrian Chiles.

In this piece, he thanked a stranger who, noticing him struggling to sleep in his uncomfortable train seat, passed him her pink jumper, rolled up ready for him to use as a pillow. This small, but thoughtful, gesture seemed to come easily to the woman, yet it touched him so significantly that he was left (after a satisfying snooze) feeling unable to adequately convey his gratitude.

Little acts of kindness go a very long way, not just for the recipient, but also for the giver. Research shows that acts of kindness actually have far reaching and perhaps unexpected consequences. Kindness not only helps to build smoother relationships, it also improves physical health and wellbeing, cultivates positive emotions in others, can have a beneficial impact on academic motivation and achievement, and boosts self-esteem. In short, kindness is an everyday habit that we should all be actively striving to cultivate in family life. 

Earlier this year, I interviewed Professor Robin Banerjee, expert in children’s social and emotional functioning. Throughout our discussion, he repeatedly stressed the importance of teaching young people that part of being successful in life is looking outwards, beyond our own achievements, popularity and appearance, and really focusing on the beneficial impact that we can have on others. 

- Motivate -

In the UK, Christmas and the accompanying pressure to buy plentiful gifts and food, is fast approaching, the weather is turning colder and energy prices are rising fast. Post-Covid, life is more precarious for many in the UK.

Beyond this, the climate crisis (rightly) is rarely out of the news and its impact is already being felt acutely worldwide. Save the Children notes that almost half of children worldwide are at extreme risk from the impacts of climate change on food supply and livelihood. Given the difficulties faced by many in the world, in the run up to the festive season, it’s worth us all stopping to look beyond ourselves and reflect on what we can do to give a little back. 

Acts of kindness range from simply providing a listening ear to someone who needs it to volunteering formally for a charity. Encouraging children to think about ways that they can show kindness to others is a great way to instil altruistic habits at a young age. In family life, talk about causes that you feel passionate about and let them see you physically giving to others. If you are able, pop a tin in the food bank bin at the supermarket, drop your loose change into the charity box or help out a neighbour in need. Why not create some new family traditions around acts of kindness and charity? Perhaps you could have a family ‘giving’ jar, which you all contribute to, and then decide together on where you’d like to donate the proceeds.  

Cultivate a spirit of philanthropy in your home by talking to children about the things that they care about and discussing causes that they might like to support. The Charities Aid Foundation has a search function which can help you to find charities that are local to you and match their interests. Whilst children may not have much money of their own to donate, we should try to show them the value and power of their time. When they get involved in a fundraising activity, help a neighbour or simply do something nice for a sibling, they are making a real difference. Make sure that these acts of kindness are noticed, praised and valued in your home. 

- Support -

Teaching our children the value and purpose of charity and the joy of giving are great life lessons. This week, I’ve also been reminded of the crucial importance of educating young people about money more generally. Attending a series of webinars about financial literacy teaching in schools, I’ve been concerned to learn how ill-equipped many of our children are with knowledge of and skills about money. 

The statistics surrounding young people and money are worrying. A report from 2012 found that a staggering 52% of UK teens have been in debt by the time they are 17. Around 55,000 children aged 11-16 have problematic gambling habits, 58% of young people don’t feel confident managing their money and almost 25% of 18-24 year olds have less than £100 in savings and often use a credit card, overdraft or borrow money to pay for essentials. Over and above all of this, we know that core behaviours around money are already established by the age of 7! Talking to children about money from a young age is crucial and, as parents, we have a key role to play in developing positive habits. 

Many of us find money a difficult subject to broach, but it’s important that it doesn’t become a taboo in family life. Studies have shown that even young children can sense when financial topics are off limits, and that they are more likely to draw their own, potentially inaccurate, conclusions when they are. Having age-appropriate conversations about money and introducing children to the financial terms and concepts that they will need as they gain independence might feel challenging, but it is beneficial. If you’d like a bit of help to get the conversation started, many financial institutions have produced excellent free resources. Barclays Life Skills and HSBC’s Financial Education programme are just two options to try.

We should aim to instil a sense of the difference between wants and needs and a realistic sense of the value of money and where it comes from. As we move towards a cashless society, we need to ensure that children see that the click of a button on screen, whether it’s streaming some music, buying an app or spending money (or ‘tokens’) on in-game purchases, has real life consequences. Talk about where this money comes from and where it goes.  Try to curb impulsive spending habits and help them to see the benefits of saving. Don’t worry too much if they blow a bit of their birthday money on a game or item that they come to regret. Good money management needs to be learned and it’s much better to learn it as a child, when there is far less at stake. If they do something really rash, a constructive family conversation will be necessary.

- Is Your School Tooled Up? -

Parents in Tooled Up schools can help to spark conversations about money with our brand new Family Finance Quiz. Each question is accompanied by a fun fact! Finance can feel like a difficult subject to broach with children, so we’ve put together our top tips for money talk within family life. We’re also putting together a list of books that can help to cultivate children’s financial literacy, which will be live on the site soon. For more advice on talking to children about gambling, listen to our podcast with Anna Hemmings and Megan Pengelly of GamCare

Over the last year, we’ve actually spoken to two experts (Dr Jess Datu and Professor Robin Banerjee) about the power of kindness, and you can listen to both interviews in the Tooled Up library. To embed altruism into your everyday life, why not see how many of our 100 Acts of Kindness your family can tick off between now and the end of the school term or try one of our family friendly fundraising ideas for a cause close to your heart? You can also help your children to notice their own kindness by encouraging them to complete our self-esteem building activity, What Makes You You? We have also compiled a list of books to help cultivate kindness and empathy for young people of all ages. 

Finally, don’t forget that our Mental Health Education Week starts on November 15th. There are still a few places left on our exclusive evening webinars. Book today, so that you don’t miss out.

To read and view more content, follow me on my social media channels.

Have a great week.