Kindness… According to Kids! – PediaCast 389

Show Notes


  • It’s World Kindness Day! We are joined by editor-in-chief of Highlights for Children, Christine French Cully, to talk about the state of kindness… according to kids. Harvard developmental psychologist, Dr Luba Falk Feigenberg, also stops by to provide insight and practical tips on fostering kindness at home. We hope you can join us!


  • Kindness
  • World Kindness Day
  • Highlights for Children
  • The State of Kindness According to Kids




Announcer 1: This is PediaCast.


Announcer 2: Welcome to PediaCast, a pediatric podcast for parents. And now, direct from the campus of Nationwide Children's, here is your host, Dr. Mike.

Dr. Mike Patrick: Hello everyone, and welcome once again to PediaCast. It's a pediatric podcast for moms and dads. This is Dr. Mike, coming to you from the campus of Nationwide Children's Hospital on Columbus, Ohio. 

It's Episode 389 for November 13th, 2017. We're calling this one "Kindness According To Kids". I want to welcome all of you to the program. 

So today is World Kindness Day, which until recently I have not heard of, but it turns out that every November 13th since 1997, it has been World Kindness Day. Today, promoted by the World Kindness Movement, which I had to look up. I haven't heard of this before. The name suggest that it's an international movement and it is. There are no political or religious affiliations. 

And the group, the World Kindness Movement, in their own words, they wish to inspire individuals toward greater kindness by connecting nations to create a kinder world. Which in the light of any number of recent newsworthy events at home and abroad sure seems like a novel  and worthwhile cause to me. 

So I did a little more research on World Kindness Day. And those of you who listened to the program for a while know I kind of like looking  into the history of things, just an interest of mine. So I looked up at the history of World Kindness Day. 

And I found that it started at the conference of the World Kindness Movement in Tokyo in 1997. And initially, the small Kindness Movement of Japan, that's really where things got started. And they decided to bring together like-minded kindness movements and organizations from around the world to talk about ways they could promote global kindness. You know, why can't we all be nice and just get along despite our differences?  


And then, that movement has grown over the years  and now includes member organizations and movements in over 28 countries. Places like Japan where it started, but also South Korea, China, Pakistan, India, Australia, the Ukraine, France, Great Britain, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, the United States, and many others. 

So when I heard about this, it caught my attention because I don't think it's one of the better known international movements or special days. I mean, Earth Day gets lot more coverage than World Kindness Day. But I think it should get more coverage because — and you've heard me talked about it before in PediaCast — we really can change our families or communities our countries and the world if we simply have respect and empathy for one another and demonstrate kindness at every opportunity. 

Now, I also understand this is difficult. There is conflict in the world. We have differences of opinion. We're not going to agree on everything. But if we can agree on at least trying to be nice to one another, how much of a better place would the world that our children inherit, how much of a better place would the world be?  

So I heard about World Kindness Day and the 28 nations who support it. Then, I heard something else with regard to kindness and this involves Highlights for Children, the magazine, and their annual State of Kid Report. Which if you haven't heard about this, it's a really cool thing. 

Every year,  Highlights asks their readers — so we're talking 6-year-olds to 12-year-olds, in that age group — they ask their readers to  answer a series of questions to sort of get a pulse on what kids are thinking. And this year, they chose to focus on, you guessed it, kindness along with caring, compassion and empathy. 


So what do kids think about these things? Are parents teaching children that kindness is important? How often do kids witness acts of unkindness at home or just when they're out and about? Or maybe it's on TV or at the movies or in the news. And when they witness unkindness, how does it make them feel, how do they typically respond? 

So these are important questions because knowing what kids think and how they act in relation to an important thing like kindness can help adjust our parenting practices. Which in turn, if we promote kindness in our kids, can end up making a big difference in the sort of people our children become. Which in turn affects communities, nations, and the world. Not quickly, but over time, we really can make a difference as we instill kindness into our kids and promote it. 

So I had this idea, what if we can get Highlights Magazine to come on the show, and talk about the report, share with us what kids are thinking? And if we could do it on World Kindness Day, how cool would that be? Well, as it turns out, they were thrilled with the prospect of sharing what they've learned with all of you. 

So today, we'll be joined by Christine French Cully who serves as editor-in-chief of Highlights for Children, along with Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg. She's a developmental psychologist at Harvard and she's going to provide insight into the meaning of what kids are thinking about kindness, as we talk about the numbers. And she'll also share some practical tips on what you can do as a parent to foster kindness and make a difference in many lives. 

We'll get to both of them in a moment. First though, I would like to remind you, if there's a topic that you would like us to explore  on PediaCast, it's really simple to send in your ideas. Just head over to, click on the Contact link, and we'll try to get your topic on the program. If you also have a question for me or you want to point me in the direction of a news article or even a journal article, any of those things are fine. Again, just use the Contact link. 


Also, I want to remind you, the information presented in every episode of PediaCast is for general educational purposes only. We do not diagnose medical conditions or formulate treatment plans for specific individuals. So if you have a concern about your child's health, be sure to call your doctor and arrange a face to face interview and hands-on physical examination. 

Also, your use of this audio program is subject to the PediaCast Terms of Use Agreement, which you can find at 

So let's take a quick break and I will be back to talk more about kindness and what kids think about it. It's coming up right after this.   


Dr. Mike Patrick: We have a couple of terrific guests joining us this week. Christine French Cully is editor-in-chief of Highlights for Children, which has published magazines for kids for a very long time, over 70 years in fact, 70, 7-0. And if you're like me, you have fond memories of reading Highlights as a kid. 

So it's with great pleasure, we welcome Christine French Cully to the program to talk about the latest edition of the Highlights' State of the Kid Report, which this year focuses on kindness according to kids. So thanks so much for joining us today, Christine. 

Christine French Cully: Thank you for having us. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: I really appreciate you stopping by. And Dr. Feigenberg is also with us. She's a developmental psychologist and research advisor for the Making Caring Common Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She's going to help us interpret the findings of the Highlights Report on kindness and provide some takeaways and practical action plans that parents can take today, to foster kindness, caring, compassion and empathy in the lives of their children.


So Dr. Feigenberg, a warm welcome to you as well. 

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: Thank you so much for having me. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: Appreciate you taking time out of your day and joining us. So Christine, I want to start with you. Tell us a little bit about Highlights Magazine. I obviously am a fan of it, reading it as a kid. But it's been around a long time, but there still could be some folks who haven't heard of Highlights. So just tell us a little bit about the publication. 

Christine French Cully: Sure, absolutely. Highlights is published by Highlights for Children, a well-known global media brand dedicated to helping children become curious, creative, caring, and confident. And we do that through engaging content and experiences that are focused on nurturing and developing the whole child — their cognitive growth, their social, emotional learning, and even their physical growth. 

And we are, as you say, best known for our flagship magazine, Highlights, which has been around a long time. But we also publish Highlights High Five for preschoolers, Highlights Hellos for babies and toddlers, and High Five Bilingual in Spanish and English.

We range about two million paid subscribers with these titles. But in addition, we publish many books, we create digital apps and games, and we support parents with things like the survey and some online parenting information. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: And I'll have links to your magazines in the Show Notes for this episode, 389, over at, so folks can check you out. My favorites as a kid were Hidden Pictures. 

Christine French Cully: The Hidden Pictures Club.

Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah. The first thing that I would look at. And I love Timbertoes. 

Christine French Cully: Mmm, yes, the family that lives in the woods. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: Yes, and are they still around? 

Christine French Cully: Absolutely, it's in every issue of Highlights, one of legacy features.


Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, great. And Goofus and Gallant, I love reading them and they kind of fit in with this whole kindness topic today. 

Christine French Cully: They do. They've been around a long time, helping kids think about the consequences of their behavior. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: So tell us then about the annual State of the Kid Report. What's that all about? 

Christine French Cully: Well, this is an annual survey, as you say, and we are in our ninth year. Every year, we ask kids ages 6 to 12 about 10 questions designed to reveal what it's like to be a kid today. And the themes differ from year to year, but our goals are always the same. We want to give kids a national platform from which to speak about issues that directly affect them. And we want to pass along what we learned to parents, grandparents, and really everybody who have a kid or kids. 

The overall takeaway last year is to lean in and actively listen to our children because we always learn something that helps us raise them better. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: So you're really trying to give a pulse on what kids are thinking about a particular topic and this year, you chose kindness. So, why that topic? 

Christine French Cully: Well, it seemed especially timely. Certainly, it's never been easy to raise kind, empathetic children. But we wondered, maybe it's never been harder than it is right now. We just had this feeling that parents are fielding some tough questions these days. It's been a year of great political divide, diminishing civility, and we see an increase and violent protests and racial strife. And then, there's all those natural disasters. 

And we wondered, what are kids seeing, what are they noticing and how is it affecting them. And then, what are they thinking about how we talk and behave toward one another. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: And so how do you go about finding kids to ask these questions? So how do you connect and do you have some sense that the kids that you're talking to represent all kids? 

Christine French Cully: We do. We survey our Highlights readers, kids ages 6 to 12 on our website for kids, And then, we also engaged with a leading market research firm who has expertise in using families. And that's to make sure that our sampling is representative of the broader US population of children. So it's a sample that's balanced across genders and age groups. 


Dr. Mike Patrick: So half are boys, half are girls. And it's really about age 6 up to age 12 and a nice blend of all those age groups. 

Christine French Cully: That's right. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: And then, the questions that you ask the kids, let's just kind of tick down through those and get the results. And then, we'll get Dr. Feigenberg on and get just some takeaways of what the results may mean. 

So the first question that was posed to the kids, "What do you think is most important to your parents — that you're happy, that you do well in school, or that you're kind?" So how did the kids respond to that question? 

Christine French Cully: Forty-four percent of the kids said that they think their parents most want them to be happy. Thirty-three percent said doing well in school is what their parents want. And only 23% said that they think their parents most want them to be kind. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: Okay, so Dr. Feigenberg, what sort of takeaway do we get with the way the kids answer that question? 

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: So I see two main takeaways. One is less than 25%, so fewer than one in four kids is telling us that they think their parents believe caring and being kind to others is the most important thing. And given the world that we live in, that's concerning that kids believe that it's most important to their parents that they individually succeed, and not that they are caring for and being kind and considerate to others in their lives. 

But another piece of it is if we ask parents that same question — and there's data from the Making Caring Common Project that shows that when we ask parents the same question about what they believe is most important for their kids — they actually say that caring is the most important thing. And so, there's this disconnect between what parents believe to be what's most important to them and the messages that their kids are hearing. 


And so we really need to think about how we can be more intentional and deliberate in the messaging that we're giving our children about being kind to others. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: So really, the priority is that parents really do want their kids to be kind and kids aren't necessarily hearing that message, what are just some things that parents can do every day to sort of get that point across?

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: So elevating kindness and caring into our everyday conversations becomes really important. I think that often, we believe that caring for others is important and we think that our kids know that. We assume that they have heard us say it or that it's taken for granted that that's an important thing. 

And actually, I think this research points to the fact that we need to be even more deliberate in our conversations with kids and not assume that they know what we're thinking or know what we believe to be important. We need to be talking with them about it even more. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: And then in terms of how you go about doing that, it can seem a little unnatural just sort out of the blue to talk about kindness. Your kids may kind of roll their eyes a little bit. So you can take just everyday moments, right? And sort of make it be about kindness or lesson or talk about the things that they're seeing. 

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: Absolutely, absolutely. I have been thinking about it a lot, actually, with my own children, how uncomfortable it does feel to bring issues that may not feel like they've come up naturally in conversation. And I think those are the moments actually where we need to challenge ourselves even more because that discomfort feeling is telling something about what's important. 


And so, we can point out examples of seeing other people do kind things. We can point out examples of moments when we have the opportunity to be kind. And we can talk about what it takes for us to behave in that way in that moment or what might hold us back. 

And we can share examples with our kids of times where we have not done the thing that we hope we would do and reflect what we learned from that and think about how we'll try again next time. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: And sometimes kids will have the perspective that what we've done is unkind. And I think then our defenses go up and like, "No, this was the right thing to do." But maybe we need to reflect as parents on our own behavior and say, "Yeah, you know, maybe that was unkind," and kind of process through that with ourselves and then with our kids.

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: That's just it. I think being a role model for our children in terms of kindness and also things we value also means admitting when we make mistakes. And none of us are perfect, we're all humans who don't always act in the ways that we might hope that we do. And I think the best lesson that we can teach our kids is showing them that it's okay to admit that. It's okay to puzzle through why we might have what we have done. And it's okay to reset that intention for the next time. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: And mealtime is something that we push. We've talked about it many times here on PediaCast, that it's a great idea for the family to sit down together, have a meal together. And that would be a great opportunity to maybe process the day if there were some things maybe at school that kids witness that were kind or unkind. That you could just couple of times a week sort of have a check-in during dinner and just say, "Hey, what sort of things were happening today and how do you feel about them?" 


Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: Definitely. Definitely, a lot of families have rituals at the dinner table around highs and lows of the day. And I think there are ways to work kindness into those questions. And even just our everyday questions about, "Hi, how are you? How is your day at school? What did you learn?" What if we replace that or added to it, "Tell me about something you did for somebody else today?" "Tell me about a time today somebody helped you." And just working those into our everyday conversations that becomes more routine and more of a habit.  

Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, great, great advice. So the next question that was posed to the kids is, "When, if ever, is it okay to be mean or unkind to someone else?" So Christine, what did the kids have to say with that question? 

Christine French Cully: Well, this was a reassuring statistic, I think. Seventy-nine percent of the surveyed kids said that it's never okay to be mean to someone. And 17% said that it's okay when someone is mean to them first. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: And so with that one, I agree. That's really encouraging that nearly 80% of the kids said it's never okay to be mean or unkind. So they are either getting that message from their parents and maybe school, society. Or maybe it's just hardwired in. I don't know. What do you think Dr. Feigenberg? 

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: I think it's a combination of those things. I think we do a good job of telling our children that they should be kind and that it's not okay to be mean. And I agree that that's a very reassuring statistic in that sense, that kids are hearing that message. The interesting part to me about this question is really helping kids think about and unpack what it means to be mean, what it means to be unkind, and what it means to be kind.

And so that they have lots of examples and have thought through the variety of ways that this might look in real life, so that they feel more prepared in those moments, with strategies to respond and ways to take action if they choose to do that. 


Dr. Mike Patrick: I think this raises the question in some parents' mind. How do you balance wanting your kids to be kind, but if there is someone who's being mean and unkind to them, how do you teach them to stick up for themselves while still embracing the concept of kindness? 

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: It's a great question. I think often we sometimes assume that standing up for oneself or speaking up is sort of on the same ground as the mean behavior that we're experiencing. And I think it's important for kids to understand that that's not true. And that sometimes, we do find ourselves in conflict situations where we disagree somebody or where we need to take a stand for what we believe in. But that doesn't mean it's a bad thing. 

And so, I think it's a really fine balance between helping kids understand how to stand up for themselves, how to take care of their own needs and not let themselves get taken advantage of. That's another worry I think parents have sometimes when talking about kindness. But balancing that with also being able to be kind and caring towards others.

And I think, again, really helping kids unpack different situations that they've been in, that they've seen and helping them understand all of the different angles is really important. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: And I think and maybe in my own mind and experiences and things I see on the news, it just seems like more and more folks feel like they have to be right and convince the other person of their way of thinking. Or else, that other person is wrong or evil or bad. 

And so, I think, also just teaching our kids that resolving conflict doesn't mean that we're all going to agree in the end. 


Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: Absolutely. I completely agree with that. And also helping our kids understand that you can disagree with somebody's belief or their perspective, but that doesn't mean that they're necessarily a bad person. 

I think it's important to help them think about how to understand different perspectives, to think about things from somebody else's vantage point. And also to help them understand how to ground an argument in facts, how to be persuasive without being mean, and how to respectfully disagree and be able to move forward from there. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, and really, that kind of teaching has to come from examples. And so, why it's so important when we see things to talk about with our kids and not only at the dinner table or as things happen as we go about our daily living, but even the things we see on TV or the movies. 

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: Yeah, and I would say especially the things we see on TV and the movies. I mean, we think we're bombarded these days with a lot of discourse that is not constructive and can veer into the unkind behavior area pretty quickly. 

And I think it's really important to help kids process and digest all the things that they're seeing because again, oftentimes, I think we assume that kids aren't paying attention. Or that they don't really understand what's going on. But they're picking up on all of those messages all of the time and they need our help figuring out how to make sense of it all. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: That kind of leads us into the next question that kids were asked, "Have you ever seen your parents or other adults acting unkindly or saying mean things to someone else?" And I think that's going to be a 100% are going to say yes, because none of us are perfect and sometimes make some bad choices. Bad then, the next part of that question is, "If so, where did that happen?"

So, Christine, what did the kids say that they're seeing their parents or other adults acting unkindly? 

Christine French Cully: Well, 68% of respondents said yes, they have seen this. Thirty-six percent said they see it primarily in the car, and 27% said they see it when their parents or adults on the phone, and 24% said they see these behaviors on television. 


Dr. Mike Patrick: I think there were 14% of them said somewhere else and the majority of those were at home or somewhere around the home, that being a part of the family where this occurred. So Dr. Feigenberg, what do we take away from those numbers? 

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: I think it validates a lot of what we've been talking about, which is that as adults, we're not perfect and our kids are going to see us behaving in unkind ways sometimes. So that's sort of the comforting reassuring piece of that. 

And then, the other piece that for me, the highlight again is that we need to talk to them about everything that they're seeing. So when they catch us in the moment of behaving unkindly, whether that's to them or to somebody on the street or to somebody in the car, that we acknowledge it. And we can also talk about the potential impact that they may have and how it makes us feel and strategize about what we might do next time. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: And if your kids are like my kids, they would be looking for those opportunities to say, "Hey, you're being unkind." 


Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: Absolutely, all the time. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: The next question is, "When you see your parents or other adults being unkind or saying mean things, how do you feel?" 

Christine French Cully: Well, not surprisingly, 92% of the kids had a very negative reaction to seeing these kinds of things. Almost half of them said it made them feel uncomfortable, with 43% saying it made them sad. And 32% said it scared them. And others used the words 'confused', 'embarrassed', 'surprised', or 'angry' to describe how they feel. 


Dr. Mike Patrick: And the flip side of that, there were some kids who actually had some positive reaction to seeing people being unkind. It ended up being 9%. Tell us about those numbers. 

Christine French Cully: Yeah, 6% said they found it a little entertaining, 3% said it made them feel safer, and 2% said they felt proud, which is interesting.  

Dr. Mike Patrick: And I think — and Dr. Feigenberg, correct if I'm wrong about this — but to some degree, that may be a function of the sort of environment that a particular kid lives in, with their community and their neighborhood. And maybe their parent sticking up for them does make them feel safe. 

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: Absolutely, and I think that's not to be discounted. We could talk about unkind behavior on a spectrum and there is a difference between maybe having harsh words for somebody who did something mean to you and something that sort of comes out of the blue or is directed at a particular group of people. 

So I would imagine that there are lots of factors that went into kids thinking about their response to this question. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: And is it good then for parents to actually talk about those things and say when you're seeing something unkind or you've seen me be unkind, asking them how it makes them feel and kind of going through those emotions and processing them and talking about them. 

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: Yes, I think that's a big piece of again helping kids digest and make sense of the things that are happening around them. And I think the fact that so many kids said that makes them feel confused or uncomfortable. Kids don't always have words to put to those feelings in the moment. 

So I think it's really important for parents to help their kids have some language around the feelings that they have in these moments and think about why they were feeling that way and then help them move to a place that okay, so what could we do about this and move into the action kind of thinking. 


And maybe as parents, when we witness these things to sort of practice before we kind of unpack it for our kids is to think about it in our own lives. When we see unkind things happen, how does that make us feel? And if we don't feel anything, then should that be an issue? 

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: I think it's always great for us to try to model with and for our kids what we might hope for them to do. So absolutely, when we experience somebody being unkind to us and our kids are around or it happens during the day and our kids aren't around to tell them that story and to say, "This person yelled at me because I was moving too slowly on the sidewalk. And that really hurt my feelings. And it made my heart beat faster and I was really upset for the rest of the day. And I've been thinking about that so much."

Just to give kids some sense of the kinds of things that we experience too helps normalize what they're feeling and also gives them an example of what it might look like and sound like, to start talking that out. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: And then, beyond just the feelings of it, then what actions sort of stem from seeing the kindness or unkindness. 

And the next question for the kids was, "When your parents see something mean or unkind happening, what do they usually do?" And over half of the kids, 61% of them said that their parents tried to stop it. Another 37% said they ignore it or stay out of it, and just 2% said they join in or encourage it. 

So what do we take away with those kind of numbers? 

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: I think on the face of it, it's reassuring that so many kids or that most kids are seeing their parents as taking a stand and trying to intervene. I think it's great to talk with kids about our choices in those moments and why and when and how we may take action to stand out or speak out or step in to a situation. 


I think there's also lots of situations where we don't take action and it's important to talk with our kids about that as well. There may be times where it's really not safe and kids need to understand all of the factors that go into our thinking. 

And there may be times where we don't do anything because we feel stuck in that moment about what to do. And those are great opportunities to have conversations with our kids about what we were thinking and how we were feeling and to strategize out loud together about things we might do in situations like that in the future. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: And really, I love that you point out the safety issue part of it because that can be something that happens at school as well. You see big kid may be bullying another kid and it wouldn't really be safe for your child to intervene in that. But they could get an adult or talk to someone else. I mean, there are ways to sort of intervene without actually acting to try to stop it directly. 

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: Absolutely. And I think while it is a very important for us all to think about ways that we can intervene, I think there's a lot of pressure on kids and then all of us to be heroic in moments in ways that isn't always feasible and isn't really always fair. 

There's lots of ways to help in situations that doesn't necessarily mean we are the ones intervening. So like you said, telling an adult or even going up to the kid who is being bullied after the fact and saying, "You know, I saw that happened with you and I'm really sorry. Is there something I can do to help?" 

I think there's lots of ways to lend our support in situations and we all have to find the way that's right for us. And it's great for parents to help kids understand the variety of ways that we can add our support and feel like we are contributing to making situations better. 


Dr. Mike Patrick: And that whole idea of talking to the person who may have been on the receiving end of the bullying kind of leads us to the next question that the kids were asked. And that is, "What do you think it means to put yourself in another person's shoes?"

And Christine, what did the kids answered to that question? 

Christine French Cully: Well, 67% of the kids polled said they do understand the notion of putting yourself in another person's shoes. Forty-one percent were able to define it as being empathetic. But 14% said they really don't know. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: And Dr. Feigenberg, what do you take away from those numbers?

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: For me, it's another reason to help our kids understand not only what the word means in terms of putting ourselves in another person's shoes but also thinking about what that really looks like and feels like in the moment. And helping them understand that being able to see something from someone else's perspective means both understanding how it might be similar to your own experience and also how it might be really different. And that's a hard concept I think for all of us to grapple with. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. But that kindness and empathy really go hand and hand because there may be a mixture of feelings in us. And if you don't sort of pay attention to those feelings and really try to see something from another person's perspective, it is more difficult to be kind. 

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: Absolutely. Absolutely. That thinking piece comes before the action piece. And so, it's really important to build on kids' skills in terms of perspective taking and the ability to kind of coordinate all of those different ways of thinking. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: And I would think that you'd come up with examples a little bit easier if you do use books and movies and TV shows and things that folks come across online and maybe in the news. Because there's all sorts of opportunities to pick out situations and say to your kids, "What do you think life is like to be in those people's shoes?"


Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: Absolutely, media in all forms offer great opportunities to expose kids to experiences that maybe very different from their own and a sort of a safe distance to think about what it might be like to have a very different life experience. 

And oftentimes, I think sometimes parents worry that exposing kids to other experiences that may be hard or sad is too difficult for children. And I would say that it's important to acknowledge that difficulty with kids, too, and to say, "Yes, this is a sad story." And there are moments in times where it's important to kind of be able to tap into that feeling as well and not shy away from it. So that we help our kids really understand the range of experiences that there are in the world. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: Sure. The next question is, "Is it more important to be kind or honest?" And how did the kids answer that? 

Christine French Cully: Well, kids say it's more important to be honest than kind, 60% versus 40%. Twenty-three percent said that being honest is something they should always do, 18% say they feel lying gets people into trouble, and 11% said that it's simply beneficial to be honest. Twenty-one percent of the kids who value kindness over honesty say it's because they don't want to hurt other's feeling. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: This is something I think adults wrestle with every day, not only kids. Adults do as well. And Dr. Feigenberg, how do you balance out the need to be honest but also be kind? 


Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: This is a tough one and I think kids relatively equally split in the answer is telling of just how hard of a decision this can be. And they really highlighted some of the struggles. 

So I think we do stress honesty with our kids. It's important to tell the truth and kids know that they risk getting into trouble if they lie. But they also know that sometimes being kind is in opposition to being honest. And I think helping kids grapple with that. So there may be times where you don't lie but maybe you massage the edges of the truth because it is more kind in the moment. And you don't want to hurt somebody's feelings. 

But there are other times where honesty will really win out. And in that moment, maybe more important than being kind to somebody else. So helping kids think about the longer term outcomes that they're hoping for and how to grapple with this difference. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. And even if there is some truth and honesty that you need to express, there are ways to express that honesty with kindness. 

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: Absolutely, absolutely. And I think there are also ways to express kindness with honesty. And helping kids kind of maneuver that is really tricky but also very important. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: And to really grasp the nuance of tone and listening and the way that you approach something again is you have to have examples and model that for your kids for them to pick up on. It's not something that automatically happens.

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: That's right, that's right. There are many examples, but this is one example too where we as adults are constantly grappling with this ourselves. And so, sharing those struggles with our kids about when we may have prioritized kindness over honesty or vice versa will help them understand those nuances. 


Dr. Mike Patrick: And there's also situations where the honesty and the truth is really a more of a matter of opinion. And so, we kind of go into it that know we're right. And so, I'm being honest by expressing my opinion. But it really is just an opinion. So if one kid is making fun of another child for their haircut, let's say, that's their opinion. They don't like their haircut but maybe someone else does. 

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: Yes, and so helping kids understand the difference between opinion and a fact is a critical point as well. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: Next question is, "If you could change one thing in the world, what would you change?" So what did the kids want to change, Christine? 

Christine French Cully: Well, this is a question we first asked kids back in 2010. And seven years ago, the majority of kids said they wanted to work to save the environment. 

But this year's survey revealed a different theme and it's kindness. More than half of the responses were about making the work a kinder place. Twenty-four percent of the kids said they would increase kindness, respect, and honesty in the world. Fifteen percent said they would want to put an end to crime and violence. Eight percent would want to help people in need and they mentioned world hunger and homelessness. Seven percent wanted to improve education, including putting an end to bullying. 

Kindness in the world seems to be very much on the minds of kids today. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: So Dr. Feigenberg, what can we do with that? 

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: We can build on it. And we can help support kids in thinking about what they can do themselves to help change the world to be a kinder place. And we can advocate on their behalf and we can follow their lead and really support them and empower them in the actions that they're taking. 


Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. Changing the world seems like a really daunting thing, right? Especially when you hear just news story after news story of negative and this. There really not a focus in the news cycles on much that's positive. It can almost feel overwhelming. There's really nothing you can do. 

So how do parents balance sort of what kids are exposed to and give them some hope? 

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: Well, I think kids have a lot more hope than we do in a certain sense. And it's important for us as parents to tap into that and to lift that up. 

So kids have a lot of ideas as they've shown on the survey about what they think would make the world a better place. And we need to help them figure how to start doing some of those things. And it may be really localized in their immediate neighborhood or school. And we can help them think about specific things they can do there or campaigns that they can lead at that very small local level. 

And we can also help them think about how they tap in to ongoing campaigns and movements that are happening in larger regions. There's lots of ways that kids can participate. And I think it's important for adults to help them identify those actions that they can take and really help them navigate the pathways. So that they feel connected to their communities and they feel like they are able to contribute in really positive and productive ways. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: And what are some concrete examples of things that you think that parents could do right now to really promote kindness in their family?

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: Well, one, as we've talked a lot about is talking about it, bringing kindness and caring into our everyday conversations, reminding our kids how important it is, and showing them examples around them of people being kind and helping them think about ways that they can be kind. 


So I think conversation is really important. And I think modelling as we've also talked about is another very important thing for parents to do. So being our best selves and trying to be as kind as we can be in our everyday lives and then acknowledging when we're not and being really honest with our kids about that. So conversation and modelling. 

And then, I would say the third thing is really helping kids identify concrete actions that they can take in their daily and weekly lives as well. And again, whether that's on their block or in their school or in their city or in our country or internationally, really helping your kids and teach kids some skills for contributing in meaningful ways to assist their goal of making the world a more kind place. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, great tips and things that we can start doing right now in our families as we communicate and engage and interact with our kids. 

Christine, can parents read the full report that we've been talking about today? 

Christine French Cully: Absolutely. The full report is available on And parents will find some other resources there as well such as a list of children's books that promote kindness and empathy. We have some wonderful videos. Both children and parents talking about the subject. And we have some thoughtful blog posts there as well. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: And they can also red past reports. So if you're interested in what kids were thinking last year. I know you had an election issue, so I'm sure that was interesting. 

Christine French Cully: Fascinating. 



Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah. And in previous years, you have several of them there that folks can read through. And we'll put links in the Show Notes for this episode, 389, over at in the Show Notes. So that folks can find those links and connect with the state of kindness according to kids, the full report, and the parents can read that. 

So, any ideas of what is next for Highlight State's of the Kid Report?

Christine French Cully: Well, we're beginning the brainstorming. All suggestion is welcome. 


Christine French Cully: We look at trends and current events and we look to the thousands of thousands of letters Highlight receive from kids every year for clues about topics that would resonate with kids and with the people who care about them. 

Next year will be our tenth year doing the survey. So we may do something a little special, a little extra as well. We're not sure yet. But certainly, the possibilities are endless. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: Absolutely. And when you do decide and get the results, we'd love to have you on PediaCast to let the folks know what kids are thinking next year. 

Christine French Cully: Thank you very much. We'd love that. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: So thanks to both of you for joining us and sharing your thoughts on the kindness and what parents and families can do to promote kindness in their kids. 

Christine French Cully, editor-in-chief of Highlights for Children, and Dr. Feigenberg, development psychologist with the Making Caring Common Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, thanks so much to both of you for joining us today. 

Christine French Cully: Thank you both. 

Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg: It was a pleasure. Thanks. 



Dr. Mike Patrick: We are back with just enough time to say thanks to all of you for taking time out of your day and making PediaCast a part of it. Really do appreciate that.       
Also, thanks again to our guests, Christine French Cully, editor-in-chief of Highlights for Children, and Dr. Luba Falk Feigenberg, developmental psychologist for the Making Caring Common Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I really do appreciate both of them coming and sharing their knowledge and expertise with us. 

Don't forget, you can find PediaCast in all sorts of places. Not sure how you came across us today, but there may be an easier way. We're in iTunes, also Google Play, iHeart Radio, Stitcher, TuneIn, really most mobile podcast apps. And if you do come across a place that you like to find podcasts and PediaCast is not there, let me know and we'll try to get the show added to the line-up there to make it really easy and convenient for you. 

We also have a landing site at You'll find our entire archive of past programs along with Show Notes for each episode, transcripts, our Terms of Use Agreement and that handy Contact page if you would like to suggest a show or a topic for us or you want to point us in the direction of a news article or a journal article. If you have a question for me, just use that contact page, I do read each and every one of those that come through and we'll try to get your ideas on the program. 

Now, we're also part of the Parents On Demand Network at That is a collection of parenting type podcast that you may be interested in. So I encourage you to check them out. I'm really happy to have the show a part of their collection. 

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And by the way, that does include your child's doctor. That's probably the biggest one you can do, is to let your healthcare provider — whether it's a pediatrician, family practice doctor, maybe a nurse practitioner, a physician assistant, whoever takes care of your kids day to day partnering with you in their health care — know about PediaCast, so they can share this resource with the other families that they take care of. 

And then, while you're talking to them about PediaCast,  let them know we have a show for them as well. Similar to this program, we turn up the science a couple of notches and offer free Category 1 Continuing Medical Education Credit. Shows and details are available at the landing site for that program, which is, is where you'll find it.  

And the CME stands for Continuing Medical Education. Your healthcare provider will know what CME stands for. And that program by the way is also available in most of the same places where you can find this program. So iTunes, Google Play, iHeart Radio, all of those places, and mobile podcast apps. Just search for PediaCast CME and they'll be able to find it. 

Thanks again for stopping by and until next time, this is Dr. Mike saying stay safe, stay healthy, and stay involved with your kids. So long, everybody. 


Announcer 2: This program is a production of Nationwide Children's. Thanks for listening. We'll see you next time on PediaCast.  

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