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Kindness is Key

Patricia Barry of Far Hills Country Day School Shows How to Instill Empathy in Children

To Patricia Barry, Director of Lower School, Far Hills Country Day School in Far Hills, kindness should be instilled in children while they are young to become a way of life as they mature. 

Since taking her post at Far Hills Country Day School in July 2021, Barry, who has 30 years of experience leading independent schools, collaborated in choosing the school’s new reading program, Into Reading, and in starting a review of the math program. She is also a member of Far Hills Country Day School’s DEI committee.

Beyond academics, Barry has delved into cultivating the emotional intelligence of young learners, guided by the school’s Five Pillars — kindness, responsibility, honesty, leadership and respect — and gives positive recognition to students who live up to these ideals. Students who model the Five Pillars receive a handwritten notecard from their teacher that Barry reads aloud in front of the entire Lower School. 

Barry talks about the importance of instilling empathy early in children and how schools and parents can work together to reinforce acts of kindness in daily life. 

Why is it important to teach children about kindness? 
By prioritizing kindness, we can help our students see the impact of the words they use and their actions toward one another. Their words and actions can alter the peer dynamics in a classroom. Students who learn to treat others with kindness in their classroom carry that out into the community. There will be a positive ripple effect of this in our classroom, in the entire school, in the outside community and eventually in the world. 

Research has shown that children are happier, have stronger concentration and achieve better results in school if educators promote and practice kindness. Acts of kindness can increase serotonin and reduce depression. We celebrate even small acts of kindness since this creates a sense of belonging and improves self-esteem in all of our students. 

How can parents instill kindness in their children? 
Since emotional intelligence doesn’t come naturally to all children, it is critical for us to teach our students different ways to be kind to others. They learn by modeling. When parents model kindness to others, their children will embrace this and follow them. Children do as they see, not as you tell them to do. Parents can be outstanding role models for their children. Children will learn from the consistent example at home and at schools that prioritize kindness as we do.

What should parents do if they notice their child being unkind?
Parents should reinforce their values and set clear expectations for their children at home as we do at school. It is essential that parents notice when their child is treating others with kindness and talk about how it makes them feel. As children feel happier and increase their self-confidence, they will want to continue imparting kindness. Talking with your child about being unkind and choosing to make better choices allows them the opportunity to continue to grow. 

What role does a school play in teaching children kindness? At Far Hills Country Day School, we feel it is our responsibility to partner with our students’ parents to promote kindness. Kindness bridges gaps and helps build a sense of connection among the students, the teachers and the parents. Kindness strengthens a child’s feeling of belonging and empowers them to regulate emotions. These critical foundational skills benefit our students in school and throughout their lives.

Learn more about Far Hills Country Day School at

Research has shown that children are happier, have stronger concentration and achieve better results in school if educators promote and practice kindness.

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