The Kindness Principle

Making relational behaviour management work in schools

By: Dave Whitaker


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Products specifications
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Size: 222mm x 182mm
Pages : 152
ISBN : 9781781353851
Format: Paperback
Published: April 2021

Written by Dave Whitaker, The Kindness Principle: Making relational behaviour management work in schools advocates a behaviour management approach rooted in values, acceptance and a genuine understanding of children's behaviour.

In an education system that too often reaches for the carrot-and-stick approach to dealing with poor pupil behaviour, an approach built on kindness and compassion might just provide the cure.

The Kindness Principle begins with the idea that relationships should be at the heart of behaviour management and culture, and sets out the ways in which the adoption of relational approaches can help create safer and happier schools. Schools where all staff and learners are valued and understood, where expectations and standards are high, and where kindness and acceptance matter.

Dave Whitaker explores why it is so important to understand children – offering techniques and advice on how to work effectively with all children (even the most challenging and troubled ones) without resorting to zero-tolerance, no-excuses and consequence-driven practices.

Dave also shares a wealth of real-life experiences from some of the most challenging schools in the country, along with research-informed insights that will help teachers understand children's behaviour in a new light. To this end he provides a wealth of guidance to help develop effective practice and learn from people who have actually walked the walk and don't just talk the talk.

Furthermore, the topics covered in the book include: restorative approaches, unconditional positive regard, building personal resilience, structures and routines, and the ins and outs of rewards and sanctions.

Suitable for teachers, school leaders and anyone working with children.

Picture for author Dave Whitaker

Dave Whitaker

Dave Whitaker is an Independent Thinking Associate and the Director of Learning for the Wellspring Academy Trust. As a former executive principal of social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs special schools and alternative provision academies, he now has responsibility for several such academies across Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. He is also a founding member of the Headteachers' Roundtable think tank and is a regular speaker at conferences, as well as being an active campaigner for educational change.


  1. In this insightful, thought-provoking and well-researched book, Dave Whitaker provides readers with an in-depth analysis of how staff in schools and colleges can promote positive and effective interaction with students at all levels based on kindness. The author's hypothesis that behaviour management is based on being kind in difficult and challenging environments is doable in practice is rooted in his credible vast experience. Another key feature of the text is Dave's skill in intertwining his experience alongside his recognition of effective practice and research into effective behaviour management and meeting the varied needs of learners. 

    Dave's kindness principle contrasts with the current practice within a number of local authority schools, academies and colleges where behaviour management is based on strict compliance and, on occasions, zero tolerance in response to conflict resolution. And those readers who have worked in specialist centres such as PRUs will applaud Dave for highlighting the fact that, despite the difficulties faced, the excellent efforts of staff in these off-site centres reduces the isolation, vulnerability, confrontational and challenging behaviour of those students who are labelled as -˜problems'. The key is that through working with role models who engender kindness and consistency, the students learn the skills to reflect on their own behaviour and to improve it. 

    Another strength of this book is that the strategies and realistic systems outlined to engender, reflect and support kindness - such as trust, positive recall and gentle reminders - are well developed and founded on firm practice, and not mere evangelical quick fixes that are ineffective in the long term. Readers will benefit greatly from the -˜Try this' sections in each chapter, which promote self-reflection and ideas for departmental or whole-school approaches to the challenges that learners face in the school setting, as well as tips to promote skills of de-escalation and conflict resolution.

    The Kindness Principle is an outstanding book which should be the basis for staff development on behaviour management and dealing with conflict in all schools and colleges.
  2. Perhaps one of the greatest mistakes we can make in education is to see the virtue of kindness as somehow irrelevant or, worse still, weak. What Dave Whitaker's beautiful book shows us is that the opposite is true. If the aim is to build what he calls a -˜no excuses, plenty of fear' regime, then the goals you can achieve are far more limited. Certain targets can be dutifully met, or even exceeded, through a mixture of extrinsic motivation and -˜punitive consistency' - but is that alone our greatest ambition for our children? Can we not be more courageous, with ambition for intrinsically motivated learners? For staff and students to be part of a thriving and emotionally intelligent community? That goal requires far greater courage, patience and relational skills. But the gold it can uncover is priceless. It also gives students a better chance of being responsible leaders of their own lives. If we have given up on trying to find and nurture that potential in every young person, then we have surely lost our way. The Kindness Principle is the book of a dedicated educator, who has the courage to relentlessly pursue a kinder path.
  3. This is a wonderful book, which anyone who cares about children and young people will find compelling. It challenges so much of the current orthodoxy about macho -˜no excuses' school cultures and has lessons for us all about relationships and the impact of fear, humiliation and shame on young people.  

    The Kindness Principle should be read in every school because above all it teaches us that excellence and kindness are not mutually exclusive. We can and should strive to achieve both.
  4. How can anyone object to kindness? Particularly when it comes to children. There are so many elements of this book that resonate: the need for adults to be their authentic selves with lived values, the power of recognition and intrinsic motivation, the value of play and co-constructed rules, the rigour of flexible consistency, the effect of seeing attention-seeking behaviour as attention-needing behaviour, and the fundamental problems of using fear and sanctions to control children and demand respect. I hope all school staff read The Kindness Principle with an open mind, because it's time we questioned the purpose of an education system which is apparently -˜successful' yet is making so many children and young people unhappy. My own daughter was a square peg in a round holes system and the consequences were unbearable. If we had our time again, I know which sort of school I would want her to attend. And kindness would be running through its bones.
  5. Dave Whitaker's book is a game changer. It's a behaviour management book for teachers, support staff and school leaders written by someone who actually does it for a living whilst carrying themselves with credibility and integrity. It's not abstract or vague; it's written with a practical passion. Much like the writer, The Kindness Principle is genuine and packs a punch in the research and case study department. It also puts pay to the -˜flattening the grass' brigade with an appeal to let children grow, develop into positive people and make constructive contributions to society. This is no self-help book. It's a call to loving arms.
  6. In The Kindness Principle, Dave provides invaluable insights into the essential ingredients that shape successful behaviour management strategies in schools. I have known Dave for a decade and I believe that he is one of the wisest and most highly respected voices in this field.

    -˜If we expect to see a naughty child, then that is what we will see. If we expect to see a child in need of support, then that is what we will see.' These two sentences encapsulate different perceptions of an individual, which contribute to the complexity of behaviour management in schools. Dave's writing challenges and encourages the reader throughout.

    The Kindness Principle is a must-read for those striving to improve the life chances of all children and young people. The inclusion of a number of practical -˜Try this' boxes provide ample room to reflect upon, examine and develop your own practice in setting the right conditions to enable all children to flourish.
  7. The Kindness Principle is a wonderfully crafted book that reminds us of the value and impact of kindness and authentic leadership in schools. Dave poses a series of provocations, encouraging the reader to consider the systems and leadership behaviours evident in their schools - and challenges them to rethink them. A must-read for anyone who works with children and young people.
  8. I'm asked regularly, -˜What should teachers and leaders learn and replicate from the schools in challenging circumstances who succeed with the most complex children?' Now, finally, there's a book to answer that question.

    In The Kindness Principle Dave takes us on a -˜25-year learning walk' with a coherent philosophy of education, a characteristic humility and a sound grounding in neuroscience. Whether it's practical insight
    into micro-structures and de-escalation, new knowledge on neurochemicals needed for learning, or the emotional resonances of tricky situations recounted with students and staff, the book shares a lot of powerful learning for educators and leaders at all levels.

    And amongst it all, the best thing about reading the book is feeling quite a lot like one of Dave's pupils: safe, in the presence of someone who knows what they're talking about on behaviour management and school
    culture; seen, amidst the stories which resonate with your own classroom challenges and the questions which prompt you to reflect on your own values and practice; and smarter, as you shut the book with a new set of tools and perspectives at your disposal.
  9. If you lead a school that has a -˜no exceptions' policy on behaviour, you should read this book. If you are a teacher with a -˜no excuses' policy in your classroom, you should read this book. If you work in a school that considers permanent exclusions a necessary feature of the education system, you should read this book. If you are someone who works in a school and believes that they need to be a bit more human, you will enjoy this book. 

    Dave Whitaker's The Kindness Principle is a book that speaks up for children - and it is a really good read. It sheds light on the rituals, routines and habits of the school system and shares current research findings and practical advice to enable teachers and others in school to consider how best to give children every opportunity to succeed and to enjoy their education.
  10. Dave's work is so much more than kindness: it is relational, successful and replicable. And what he shares in The Kindness Principle is unconditionally excellent and seriously useful.
  11. The Kindness Principle is a must-read book for enlightened educators which provides a practical guide to relationships-led practice. Between these covers, you'll find everything you need in order to become a school where teachers love to teach, learners love to learn and where curiosity and empathy turn adversity into opportunity. 
  12. The Kindness Principle is a book I want to read again and again. Since reading the book, my interactions with dysregulated pupils has improved - and my belief that kindness and relationships should be at the heart of every school has been strengthened.
  13. The Kindness Principle captures decades of Dave Whitaker's thinking and experience in an inclusive and practical book. From -˜Try this' suggestions to exploring the underpinning theories and research and challenging some of the prevailing orthodoxy around behaviour management, Dave guides the reader along a path of deep and profound humanity where compassion, personal responsibility, the individual and the community are held in a coherent and thought-provoking tension. How will you be remembered?

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