A Campaign That Teaches Girls Its Cool To Be Kind
We see the heartbreaking stories on our news feeds and think, no, not again. Not another young woman committing suicide after the bullying she endured just got to be too much.
Though social media may bring us more of the stories of the impact bullying can have and give mean girls a new tool, the problem is nothing new. Lauren Paul and Molly Thompson can attest to that. In 2009, Paul and Thompson began making a documentary addressing girl-against-girl bullying and its harmful impact. Their motivation? They'd experienced some bullying themselves growing up.
The film, Finding Kind, became the basis of the Kind Campaign, a larger anti-bullying movement that encourages girls to open up about the issue and to replace meanness with kindness. The work of Paul and Thompson's non-profit includes assemblies during which girls hear the founders' stories, share their own, and take part in activities and exercises designed to help students better understand bullying and work on forgiving one another. There's also a magazine, store, community and a Kind Pledge girls can take online.
I spoke with the founders about what has changed and what hasn't in since they got started, and what they've learned along the way.
Susan Price: Have you see things change at all since you started filming almost a decade ago?
Lauren Paul: The methods and types of bullying that girls experience today may have changed over the years, and certainly since we were in school, but the lasting psychological and emotional effects have not. We started production on our documentary film, Finding Kind, back in 2008, before bullying became the hot topic that it is today. We had no idea if people would be willing to open up about their experiences. And when we started bringing our assembly program into schools, there was no conversation about bullying taking place and resources were scarce.
Now, it’s extremely rare for us to walk into a school and not see posters in hallways with information on how to detect bullying and what to do if you are experiencing it. Most schools now have quotes and messages about kindness and inclusivity plastered through their buildings and clear warnings stating that bullying is not tolerated on campus. When we started Kind Campaign that just didn’t exist. It’s so encouraging to have witnessed that evolution.
Some might argue that bullying has gotten worse based on viral news stories about suicide cases that have resulted from bullying, but the truth is, these grave consequences are long-standing.
More resources also are being created to help resolve the problem. At Kind, we’ve developed tools and supportive networks through our Kind Campaign Assemblies, Kind Curriculum, Kind Clubs and Kind Ambassador volunteer program. We’re also seeing informative television shows, movies, books, and websites that provide resources to young people experiencing bullying. The widespread availability of these resources has also created a higher standard for accountability. Rather than girls tearing each other down, we’re now seeing them lift each other up, and seeking opportunities to just be kind to one another.
Susan: Those resources are great, but live events can be so powerful. When you hold assemblies what do you find is most effective in getting the message to girls?
Molly Thompson: One of our biggest goals is to show that bullying affects girls from all walks of life. When we arrive at a school, we’ll kick off by sharing our own stories and watching our documentary. As some of the girls may not be initially eager to disclose their personal stories before we share our own stories of suffering through bullying, we see the girls feel more engaged and connected when they know we can relate.
One of our favorite parts of the assemblies is when we invite the girls to share their Kind Pledges, Kind Cards and Kind Apologies with one another. It’s so moving to watch the girls come together and bond through their shared apologies and recognition of how their actions impact one another. What’s also moving is the feedback we receive from the girls. It’s incredibly humbling to know the message and programming makes an impact, and so inspiring to keep the movement growing.
Susan: What have you learned about yourselves along the way?
Lauren: We’ve learned that the more room we make for conversations, connection-building, and compassion, the closer we get to unearthing the root of bullying. One of the other keys we’ve discovered is just how powerfully injecting positivity into our own lives—purely by practicing kindness--impacts self-confidence. The decision to be kind not only reshapes the way we treat others, but the way we treat ourselves. This creates an inexhaustible cycle of positivity, which has been one of the most rewarding surprises from our journey.
Susan: So what's up next?
Molly: We’ve just announced our fall school tour. Students and teachers can request to host a Kind Campaign Assembly at their schools. They can visit our site, and follow us at @KindCampaign on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for updates. We’ll also have a few other announcements for our Kind Community about upcoming collaborations and projects.