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Thoughts about Paddington Bear

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

The story of Paddington Bear has captured the hearts of children and adults all across the world for decades. After all, it is hard not to love a bear who spreads joy, happiness and marmalade wherever he goes!

As a child, I would go to our local library and enjoy reading these classic stories by Michael Bond. I was instantly drawn to this lovable, well mannered bear who always kept a sandwich under his hat “….just for emergencies”.

His day to day encounters would make most of us angry or frustrated but he has a huge capacity for kindness and an endearing ability to befriend others. The Brown family usually ended up learning more from Paddington than he learnt from them.

Parents often ask me how they can promote and equip their children with good skills in communication, empathy and problem solving (just to name a few). These “soft skills” are part of a critical skill-set that all children need to develop. Paddington demonstrates many of these soft-skills form the moment we meet him so what can we learn from this marmalade sandwich loving bear?

Apologise when you are wrong: Paddington is never deliberately unkind to people but he is always quick to apologise should he do something wrong. Teaching children to apologise is important because it helps instil in them a sense of right and wrong and how to take responsibility for their actions. A good apology explains what the intention was, as well as the outcome. Teaching young children to say "sorry" is the first step. Older children need to learn to identify what they are apologising for, and taking ownership of the outcomes that they didn't intend (for example, "I'm sorry because I got very excited and shouted over you at dinner. I didn't mean to drown your voice out, but I see that my shouting made it hard to you to be heard."

Show awareness of other people’s feelings: Paddington always asks if people are ok and how he can help them. By doing this, he is modelling empathy to the audience. Empathy can encourage children to recognise and show interest in how other people feel. This creates opportunity for children to develop deeper relationships and lasting friendships.

Think before you act (the signature hard stare): When and if someone annoys Paddington, he does his signature hard stare. This gives two very useful outcomes. It allows him time to think about what that person has said or done, before acting on impulse. It also gives the other person time to change their mind or back down without it being too difficult to do. We can all use a bit of practise with this one.

It is ok to make mistakes: Paddington makes more than a few such as drinking tea straight from the teapot and even managing to flood the Brown’s bathroom. As soon as he realises he has made a mistake, Paddington owns up to it. By showing children that it is ok to make a mistake, and it is important to own up to it, you are allowing them the opportunity for self improvement. It can be too easy to step in and ensure that children do not make mistakes for fear of them getting hurt or rejected, but children learn a great deal from recognising their own mistakes and learning from them. I'm pretty sure Paddington didn’t flood the bathroom a second time!

By supporting children with these skills you can help them learn responsibility, respect and kindness to ensure they can always land on their own feet, just like Paddington.

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