Why wouldn’t kindness help EVERY child?

Why wouldn’t kindness help EVERY child? 150 150 Jane Evans

connection in the sand

Why are we STILL ‘kindness averse’ when raising children?

It may seem crazy in 5, 10, 15 years time, or even right now, that we tend to struggle to trust and to believe that ALL children need kindness from the adults around them in ALL situations.

What ALL???? Even if they have just pushed their brother over, drawn up the walk, screamed “Nooooooo” in our face or told us to “f*&k off”, that doesn’t make any sense!

Yes, especially then….10, 9, 8,…..just counting whilst you say, “But they have to learn right from wrong/we are not there to be a child’s ‘friend’, they need boundaries/they needs consequences for their actions/they won’t learn/there has to be a line/that’s all very well but…../that’s what’s wrong with children today, no discipline.”

Sparing the rod and spoiling the child

This is the baseline for many attitudes which still exist when it comes to raising children (apparently this idea was intended as guidance for taking care of sheep, not children, poor sheep and children!) It supports the notion that children ultimately need a ‘threat’ of some physical or emotional discomfort to learn to be good and behave. This is the foundation for the practice of giving children consequences/punishments (same thing to a child), and the newer ‘kids on the block’ of rewards/praise, or bribery and patronisation.

So, let’s look at how being kindness can harm a child’s:

  • behaviour
  • attitude
  • ability to be polite and grateful
  • ability to be a good friend
  • curiosity about learning
  • physical and mental health
  • becoming a great adult

Well, it can’t so lets not bother!!

What kindness looks like when children struggle

A toddler pushes another child over:

Response one – “What did you do that for? That’s not OK, say sorry. I’ve told you before to play nicely and not to push. Why can’t you do that? Jack’s hurt and sad now, look what you did.”

Response two – “Stop, what did you do that for, I told you if you did it again you would have to come and sit by yourself. Come on sit here until I say so.Sit still, don’t whine……off you go, no more pushing or else.”

Response three – “Oh are you OK? Let’s help Jack he looks a bit shocked and  sad. Let’s get calm first (deep breaths together) so we can sort ourselves out. I wonder what was going on, looks like some big feelings, Jack looks sad now, what about you how are you feeling? If you get anxious again what could you do, how can I help you with that?”

Both responses take about the same time and, depending on how upset the child gets they could take a VERY long time, especially if they are repeatedly returned to the ‘calm down/time out spot.’

The first two responses put the child in a state of shame, they sense the disconnection from us and that they have upset us and flick in to fight or flight or freeze/zoning out. This can lead to a range of behaviours and responses dependent upon what they have seen us do at times of stress and shame.

In turn, and in time, this builds connections in their brain – get things wrong/upset others = shame = physically or verbally lash out, withdraw and blame myself, get out run/leave, or avoid the adults if I make a mistake/lie about it/blame others etc.

The third response aims to calm the child’s flight/fight/freeze response and still their nervous system, as these are easily activated if they sense they did the ‘wrong’ thing. Once calm, their brain can then be curious and learn about empathy and their own feelings and start the ongoing process of learning and making connections in their developing brain about how to behave and respond in a wide range of social and learning situations.

The tiny brush they have with shame won’t become huge as its not what the adult focuses on. Instead empathy and learning are the way all situations are addressed, which becomes possible when the adult helping them learn uses kindness and thereby maintains a close emotional connection with them.

Final thoughts

A glance at how the brain develops will quickly reveal that it’s ongoing until nearly our 30’s. The more we experience calmness and kindness at moments of stress the less active and reactive our ‘stress alarm system’ which shuts off our intelligent brain will be. Therefore, stress will not repeatedly render us stupid, confused, tense, reactive and less sociable as an adult which has got to be a ‘win, win’ situation for us and those around us!!

Take this quote as your guide:

“Shame shames and shuts off the learning brain. Kindness calms and keeps a compassionate connection and an ability to learn.”


Jane Evans

Jane is a ‘learn the hard way’ person. She has learnt from her personal experiences and her direct work with people who have often been in really bad places emotionally, relationally, practically and sometimes professionally.

All stories by: Jane Evans

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