My day talking kindness to young children

I spent a day earlier in the week at a primary school where I was talking to young children about the importance of kindness.

It was a school outside Glasgow, Scotland, on the invitation of my friend, John – aka Mr McLellan. The school has a dedicated ASD unit.

I was a little nervous as I’m not used to speaking to children. Almost all of my talks, lectures and workshops have been for adults. I usually talk a lot about the science of how kindness impacts health, as well as various aspects of the mind-body connection and self-esteem, so I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to simplify things for the children or even make what I do sound remotely interesting.

John assured me that I’d be fine, that they mostly just want to know what I do and then ask me questions. My first class was John’s class, a small class of 8.

I brought a couple of my books with me and began to talk about my job as a writer. I explained that I’m an ‘author’ and showed them some of my books and various international translations, including the same book in English, German, Romanian and even Japanese, which they found fascinating. I told them that I mostly write and teach about being kind and how important that is.

I asked if any of them knew what being kind meant. A sea of hands shot up, each of the children politely waiting to be asked. I went around them one-by one, amazed as they gave lovely examples of kindness; like helping someone up if they’ve fallen down, saying nice things to people, saying ‘thank you’, paying compliments, holding a door, even being respectful.

After a little more talk about kindness they had a chance to ask questions. Mr McLellan had given them all cards the day before so that they could write their questions and read from them.

One of the first questions was, “What age are you?” so we had a guessing game, followed by another guessing game around how many pages my book has and another about how many words are in it. Faces swelled with pride when they got answers right.

I was also asked things like, “What’s your favourite TV show?” and “Do you have a car? What kind is it?” It was so incredibly nice for the children just to get to ask what they want to know, and I enjoyed it immensely.

I repeated the same thing three more times through the day for children at all ages, including whole-year assemblies for primary 7 children (ages 11 and 12) as well as primary 1 (ages 4 and 5). In one class, I talked about how I went to university and then worked as a scientist making medicines. I asked if any of them knew what a scientist is. Many of could describe some aspects of different kinds of science. Between them, they painted a good picture of what a scientist does. Since my PhD was organic chemistry, which consists of sticking atoms together to make molecules, many of which end up as medicines, I asked if anyone knew what atoms were.

I wasn’t prepared for the following answer from a small boy:

“They’re tiny little particles that make up everything. They’re so tiny you can’t see them and everything is made up of millions of them.” Then he put his finger on the table and said, “I’m touching atoms right now.”

Few adults could give such a precise answer. I was actually speechless. That he mentioned the word ‘particles’ and had a sense of their size and relative quantities just blew me away. He must have been about 9 or 10 years old.

During lunch, I sat in on choir rehearsal, where Mr McLellan played some music that the children sang along to. It was a rehearsal for an audition later in the week for BBC Children in Need.

It took my breath away. These young children, singing together, some looking at each other for comfort or approval, moved me to tears. I can’t quite express in words how moving it was.

As I write this, I still see in my minds’ eye, happy, smiling faces from some of the children I spent most time with in John’s class. Their personalities are infectious. They left a really big impression on me.

The day was an unexpected pleasure for me. As I wrote above, I was a little nervous when I arrived because I’m not used to communicating what I write and teach about to young children, but my fears were unfounded. The children really just wanted to know about me and a little bit about what I did.

I was warmed by how much they knew about kindness, how they were learning at school what it is and how important it is. They were even being recognised for being kind with little awards. I don’t ever remember formally learning about kindness when I was at school, so this was great to see.

Overall, I was deeply inspired by the teachers and classroom assistants too. People often say to me that I’m doing a great job in spreading the word about kindness by writing about it and collecting scientific studies together into books and blogs that others can quote. People call me a kind person for this reason.

To be honest, I don’t see it like that. I really don’t. What inspired me deeply was John and his colleagues. How they were with the children. How they spoke with them, taught them, comforted them. I mentioned to John that he had such a kind and gentle way with the children that you would think he was their parent. These are people – like many other teachers, carers, service workers, etc, all around the world – who are on the front line actually doing the kindness. I write about it. They doit! It really moved me.

I am so grateful that there are so many people in the world on the front-line doing kindness daily, as well as the millions of people who are simply just kind people, acting on opportunities as they present themselves daily.

I think there is a lot more kindness in the world than most of us typically see. The experience has left me with more hope, gratitude, and a good feeling that things are changing for the better, even if it’s not always immediately obvious to see.

11 thoughts on “My day talking kindness to young children

  1. That was absolutely beautiful reading and it brought tears to my eyes! I wish I would have been there alongside you.
    Thank you for writing about your experience. Daniela Mannucci

  2. Sieglinda Gerst

    these words make so hopeful. thank you so much.
    sieglinda

  3. Hi David,
    Your blog post made my day!! I sometimes volunteer at my daughters school so I can relate to what you’re saying and I agree completely. The teachers are really kind in the classroom, even though at our school there are 32 kids and only one teacher. and if one of the kids gets upset in the playground they soon have a protective circle of tender little friends taking care of them.
    I love it. Thanks for writing this post, I’ve read it twice today already!

  4. What a fabulous blog. This filled my heart with great joy, thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. Hi David – This was wonderful. I have worked with special needs children for nearly 13 years as a teacher and school psychologist. Your description of working with the kids is so well stated. I wish more professionals and adults would go out to observe and interact with teachers and children. It does give one hope. Glad you are spreading the word about kindness. Wonderful!

  6. Mariella MacLiesh

    Hi David,
    This story warmed my heart and confirmed what I always believed is true; and I have seen it again and again. I work with kids and I think they teach me more than I teach them, it is a continuous exchange of one moment I am the teacher and they are the students to I am the student an they are the teachers.
    I am really happy that you took the opportunity to try something new and it was good for both parts for the kids to get to know something new and ask many questions and bring out the best in their innate curiosity that is natural to children. It is a pity that we humans lose it when we become adults, not everyone but sadly the majority. And the good part for you was to help lose your fear to talk to a different audience than you normally do. It helps you to realize how amazingly smart and kind the children really are.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Mariella

  7. Delighted to see you with the school children. I asked you at one of your lovely seminars at Dunblane if you had any plans to go into schools. I hope this is the first of many as you have so much to offer kids of all ages. They need your teaching to help them understand teenage and adult life and how to get the best for themselves and others

  8. Jane Smart

    Hi David,
    I’m so delighted that you are taking your message of kindness to children. I have been a Primary teacher all my life; moving to Learning Support when both of my own children were diagnosed with Dyslexia shortly before they went to Secondary school.
    Today’s children need to learn about kindness, hopefully long before they are dragged into the world of social media and the nastiness which exists there. It is sad, indeed, that so many children do not learn the principles of kindness at home, in their pre-school years.
    Although it is a little scary, working with children will open up a whole new world of joy for you!
    Keep it up!
    Many Blessings,

    Jane Smart
    The Wee Schoolroom

  9. Janice Enzone

    Wonderful. I just loved this article.

  10. Ruth Davison

    David, I was recently introduced to your work by a friend. It’s changed my life. I can not recommend enough your attracting what you want audible. I’ve told friends, family, cab drivers. Explained to them all they are completely in charge of their own destiny. I would LOVE you to come and talk to my kids school if you’re ever in Chorleywood and fancy a visit to Chorleywood Primary School! Ruth

  11. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Angela 🙂

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