By Cara Zelas
10 January 2018

While there is plenty of evidence we can all point to from our own lives about why it’s important to be kind, there’s actually plenty of research to support this too. A study in Great Britain had participants take a survey about their life satisfaction. Then, participants were divided into three groups: the first group was instructed to perform a random act of kindness every day for ten days. The second group was told to do something new each day, and the third group received no specific instructions. Afterward, the participants took the life satisfaction survey again. Those who performed a random act of kindness had a big boost in their happiness according to the survey. So, even performing acts of kindness over a short period of time had big benefits for overall satisfaction. Additionally, a second study focused on how previous acts of kindness inspire future acts of kindness. The results of the study showed that when people felt happy about their previous acts of kindness, they were more likely to show more kindness in the future. These studies show that being kind improves our lives. The more kindness we show, the more likely we are to continue showing kindness. The implications for our children are important. If we teach our children to be kind, not only with they be happier people, but they will be more likely to share that happiness. If we focused on teaching kindness, we could see things like bullying, teasing, and other hurtful behaviors decline (Dixon, 2011).

How do children learn kindness?
The simple answer is that they learn kindness from us. As parents and educators, we need to make showing kindness a priority. Our children should see us showing kindness daily to everyone we encounter. Not only that, but we need to provide many opportunities for our children to practice kindness. You’ll see a list of ten ways to get started at the end of this post. Additionally, you need to help your child expand their view of whom they should care for. It is easy to show kindness to those we love and spend a lot of time with. However, it is never too early for your children to learn about others who may be less fortunate- both abroad and in their own community. It’s also a good idea to point out other people who deserve our kindness: the waiter at a restaurant, the custodian at school, the mail carrier, and everyone else who provides services for us. Finally, you can help teach kindness by helping your child work through their negative feelings and behaviors. Children will be unkind sometimes, so as their caregivers, we need to help them process their emotions and learn from their mistakes. Even when our children may be unkind, we have to continue showing kindness to them. They learn how to deal with difficult behaviors by watching us (Joyce, 2014).

10 Fun Ways to Teach Kindness!
1. Send a secret care package to a friend who needs to be uplifted

  • Brainstorm people in your child’s life that may need cheering up. It could simply be a friend who had a bad day or someone you know who is in the hospital. Make a small basket of goodies to deliver to them anonymously. It is good for your child to want to do kind things without always receiving acknowledgement for their actions!

2. Make someone laugh and smile today

  • This is an easy one that requires nothing to be purchased or made. Ask your child what he or she can do to make others laugh or smile and then practice those things. For example, you could go to a local shop and hold the door open for those entering/exiting. Or, your child could give a hug to a friend or relative. There are plenty of simple, easy things to do every day.

3. Put a kind note in a library book

  • Everyone likes to be reminded that they are loved and special. Write some handwritten notes at home and then make a trip to the library. Tuck the notes into random books in the library to brighten the day of whomever checks those books out in the future.

4. Plant a tree

  • One way to show kindness is to take care of the environment. Not only is planting a tree good for the earth, but nurturing and taking care of a plant can help your child learn love and patience.

5. Read a book to someone

  • Your child could pair up with a younger friend or relative and read to them. Or, you could go by a nursing home or hospital and read to someone who is sick or lonely.

6. Write a poem for a friend

  • This is a great way for your child to show kindness toward a friend. An easy way to help your child get started would be to do an acrostic poem and have one line of the poem begin with each letter in the friend’s name.

7. Donate your time by serving others in your community

  • Find a way to give back in your own community. Check and see if there are any organizations that facilitate volunteer work for families in your area. If not, find your own way. This could include passing out care kits to the homeless, volunteering at an animal shelter, or visiting the elderly in nursing homes.

8. Leave a treat for your bus driver, mail carrier, etc…

  • Lots of people provide us services every day that often go underappreciated. Leaving a snack for the mail carrier or bringing cookies to the bus driver is an easy way to help your child learn to shown kindness to everyone they encounter.

9. Pick up trash in your neighborhood

  • Not only does this help the environment, it also improves the neighborhood and helps provide a clean place for everyone to play.

10. Make cards and deliver them to a children’s hospital

  • Have your child make some handmade “get well soon” cards and send them to children who are sick and in the hospital.
  • There are so many simple ways to help your child practice showing kindness. This is just a small list to help you get started. Remember, the best way for your child to learn kindness is to see you showing kindness. So make sure to be an active participant in all the kindness activities too!

References
Dixon, A. (2011). Kindness makes you happy…and happiness makes you kind. Greater good magazine. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/kindness_makes_you_happy_and_happiness_makes_you_kind
Joyce, A. (2014). Are you raising nice kids? A Harvard psychologist gives 5 ways to raise them to be kind. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/07/18/are-you-raising-nice-kids-a-harvard-psychologist-gives-5-ways-to-raise-them-to-be-kind/?utm_term=.5a0778e2f676.