COMMENTARY 770.2: Establishing a Culture of Kindness

Though intensive media attention to bullying has died down, the problem persists in many forms, and it continues to diminish the lives of tens of thousands of young people every day. According to a recent survey, roughly half of all high school students say that in the past year they were bullied in a manner that seriously upset them. A similar number said they had bullied someone else.

That’s an awful lot of meanness.

Trying to eliminate the problem, schools are scurrying to develop new anti-bullying programs and legislatures are writing new laws to criminalize bullying. Sadly, neither of these strategies is likely to make a serious dent unless they are part of a much broader effort to create a positive school climate that discourages all forms of hurtful or demeaning words or acts.

Anti-bullying strategies seek to crack down on bullying, hoping to deter abusive behavior by threats of punishment. They often create legalistic procedures that put a heavy responsibility on schools or courts to prove the conduct occurred.

A better strategy is to instill, reinforce, and reward the values of empathy, compassion, and acceptance. Instead of anti-bullying programs, we need a pro-kindness strategy. Kind people don’t bully and don’t look the other way when someone else is bullied.

We need to create a “culture of kindness,” encouraging a spirit of generosity and love where differences are accepted and celebrated, rather than targeted. In a culture of kindness, students stand up for and next to one another, all for one and one for all.

A dedicated effort to teach, advocate, and model kindness will work much better than efforts to punish meanness.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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Comments 10

  1. This could work not only in schools but in our general society as well. As an elected official for our local Town Board, I try to find a way to let others know that we need to “stop the hate and put kindness in our hearts” toward each other. I sent this message to several leaders in the community but that is “preaching to the choir” when I wish I could reach those causing the problems. No, I won’t give up because Michael Josephson hasn’t given up. 🙂

  2. Thank you, Michael! Things are changing, little by little. I hope our planet can hold on and wait for us to become more caring about the environment and about other people. It is the only way we are going to survive… I think a culture of kindness is the best choice we have, and it is people like you who are making it happen. May God bless everything you do.

  3. While a US citizen and educator, I am currently living in Singapore. I have been volunteering with a program they have here (The Singapore Kindness Movement) that was initated in the 1980’s but is seeing a reawakening in the past few years. They not only promote acts of kindness in the schools but in the communities.

    While programs like this take time to build and effort to maintain, the underlying principal of the program is good.

    You have to change the behavior of adults who are the role models if you want the children to act in a positive manner. It is a daunting task, but I always have believed that recognizing the positive gains more ground than punishing the negative…. it is just easier at time to recognize bad behavior than to capitalize on the good.

  4. Everyone talks about problems, but few are problem solvers. At least that is the way it seems. Although I agree 100% that a culture of kindness and caring is better than the endless programs targeting the bully, I see a lack of commitment from the adults who are in direct control of young peoples’ lives. And without that commitment, the rate of success diminishes exponentially.

  5. One of life’s great pleasures is to meet someone later in life you bullied you when you were in school, and you have been to college and progressed in life far beyond what they have achieved and thus are able to look at them with scorn and contempt. Remind them of what they did and have a good laugh at their expense.
    We need to teach our children to be strong and be courageous.. The bullies will always be there but our kids, if they are strong, will defeat them ultimately. Tell the kids to be strong and if they are strong they will win in the long run and the bullies will grovel at their feet.

    1. @ Raymond,
      I don’t think that is the message Mr. Josephson is trying to convey. Your idea sounds almost retaliatory rather than kind. Bullies may also become very successful, we just have to hope they learn how to treat people better as they grow up in life.

    2. Putting someone down, looking down at someone, and laughing at someone are just other forms of bullying. Responding to bullying in such ways only perpetuates the cycle of bullying instead of ending it. Michael Josephson teaches about a culture of kindness to end bullying. The bully is as much a victim as the person, who is victimized by the bully, just in a different way. Often the bully is covering up for a shortcoming or was formerly the victim of bullying or is currently being bullied by friends to bully. In a culture of kindness, we stand up for the bully, the victim, and the bystander, because there is no room for unkindness to anyone.

      Bullying the bully will never end bullying; only kindness and love can overcome bullying and hate.

  6. Mike
    Kindness and love are the highest virtues. But strenght has its place. THe most unkind thing you can do to a bully is to let him get away with it. An aggressive
    attitude on the part of our kids that ” I will not be intimidated “, will help bullies learn the folly of their ways much faster than entreaties to be nice.

    1. Raymond,
      I agree with you completely with the idea of strength and attitude of kids is something that also needs to be taught rather than what many teach; however, my thoughts were more based on your looking on them with scorn and contempt. It appeared that Mr. Josephson’s commentary was really trying to emphasize the “…spirit of generosity and love” as he put it. If we build that strength as parents and teachers, hopefully those bad feelings (scorn and contempt) will be realized far less often. I have seen in schools where students are victims because they allow themselves to be victimized so your point of strength is well taken and something I am instilling in my children.

  7. Pingback: A Culture of Kindness: 26 Acts of Kindness – 2013 | User Generated Education

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