How RESPECT Builds Kindness: A Message from Dr. Patricia Newman

Recently I was in a teacher supply store and talking with the store manager and, as is often my habit, was sharing with her all that I do with RESPECT!  She asked if we had a play about “kindness” and said teachers and parents often ask her about teaching kindness when they are browsing. She said they are often looking for games, books, handouts, display materials, etc. to fill bulletin boards, lesson plans and events on the topics of “Just Be Kind” and “Kindness Counts” and “It’s Cool to be Kind” etc.

I did not have to think long about this and said and, actually: ALL OF RESPECT programming is about kindness! Every bit.

Here’s why:

RESPECT programs don’t simply tell kids to be kind, we help them think about what being kind looks like to others. Some kids truly don’t understand that their own “humor” and “teasing” can be perceived as bullying or as acts of unkindness to others During RESPECT programs they have an opportunity to observe and consider what their own behaviors LOOK like through the eyes of others AND just as importantly? What they might FEEL like to others.

Additionally, through theatre and role play activities students of all ages learn many ways to be kind to other people. They learn that there are different ways you can be kind to different people, and that each person can have their own unique style of kindness. This might be as simple as quietly communicating concerns about a friend to a teacher or distracting someone who is using bullying behavior to stop them from bullying someone.

RESPECT programs also teach that it is ok to ask for help and to ask what others need. It is also ok to try things and not succeed. One student said. “sometimes you just feel better knowing that someone tried to help you even if what they did didn’t work.”  Another student said, “I want people to make sure I want the kindness they are giving me. I don’t want any charity or anything.”

RESPECT stages conversations that encourage students to talk about what others need and what they themselves can offer, in order to feel more secure and happy in their relationships. It also encourages conversations about being kind to yourself. We know that the students in our audiences who engage in self-harm, experience mental health disorders, such as eating disorders, even those who exhibit bullying behaviors towards others, are likely not treating themselves with kindness.

In all of our programs we are encouraging students to stop and think about how they can help themselves or someone else in a difficult situation with a useful, meaningful choice – that is kind.

So….while RESPECT actually DOES include the language specific to kindness in all of our programs….I like to think that KINDNESS is also spelled RESPECT.