What is kindness and how do we teach this to our children?
I think it’s life experiences, relationships and our environment that affect a person’s ability to show their inherent kindness to others. I believe some children are born with more of a kind and compassionate nature and others need to learn that kindness as they grow older. As a parent, there are many ways to teach our children kindness. I think the most important way to teach this is by being kind ourselves. If we are not kind to others, how do we expect our children to be kind? As humans we want to feel loved, respected and included. From the perspective of a parent, disrespect and lack of kindness to others is occurring at a younger age, which can be challenging for our children.
Today I wanted to share both research and a review. I found an interesting research article titled, Kindness Counts: Prompting Prosocial Behavior in Pre-adolescents Boosts Peer Acceptance and Well Being (2012) by Kristin Layouse, Katherine Nelson, Eva Oberle, Kimberly A Schonert-Reichl and Sonja Lyubomirsky . The article focused on the age group of tweens (9-11 years old) and the effects of kindness that it had on a specific group. In this longitudinal study, 19 classrooms in Vancouver, Canada participated and were split into two groups. One group was instructed to perform three acts of kindness and the other group was instructed to visit three places per week over the course of four weeks. Why did the researchers choose visiting three places vs acts of kindness? The researchers wanted to use an activity for this age group that was motivating and thought be boosting for their well being (versus doing a less motivating activity such as schoolwork). The study wanted to determine if visiting three motivating places versus doing acts of kindness would have similar effects on happiness, peer acceptance and life satisfaction. The study found that in both conditions, all children improved in well being, but with the children who performed these acts of kindness, there was an increase in peer acceptance (e.g. increasing number of friends in the classroom). What were these acts of kindness that these students needed to perform? Some examples included giving their parent a hug after a hard day at work, vacuuming the carpet, carrying groceries, etc. If we can see these important positive effects of kindness with older children, the impact can even stronger when taught at younger age.
How do we teach kindness at an early age? Inherently, humans are naturally inclined to be kind. To learn more about how kindness develops at an early age, check out this article titled Raising Kind Children. Another way, is reading a book to your child focusing on this specific topic.
Are you looking for a book to help your child learn about kindness? This book by Rana DiOrio titled What Does It Mean To Be Kind? can be an excellent tool in helping a child learn what being kind means with realistic examples. What does being kind mean? Being kind means giving compliments to others, helping those in need, being patient when waiting your turn and treating others the way you want to be treated.
If we can emphasize these valuable acts of kindness when children are young, than we can help assure a world of people who are considerate and compassionate to others. Use this book as a tool to initiate in depth conversations such as “What did you do that was kind today?” “What did you do that wasn’t kind and how can you make it better?” “How did you feel when someone is mean to you?” Discuss the various meanings of the word “kind” and do a carryover activity. I think an excellent way to carry over this book is committing to an act of kindness right away. This can be offering water to a younger sister or brother or helping a parent clean up the kitchen. As a parent, I really appreciate any acts of kindness that my children give me and this does not change with age. We all needs acts of kindness whether we are 5 or 55!
To learn more about kindness and What Does It Mean To Be Kind?, check out this article here. To pre-order a signed hardcover book of What Does It Mean To Be Kind?, click here. Rana is also the author of another book titled What Does It Mean To Be Present? To check out my review of this book, click here.
Stay tuned for an interview with the author, Rana DiOrio coming soon!
Layous, Kristin, S. Katherine Nelson, Eva Oberle, Kimberly A. Schonert-Reichl, and Sonja Lyubomirsky. “Kindness Counts: Prompting Prosocial Behavior in Preadolescents Boosts Peer Acceptance and Well-Being.” PLoS ONE 7.12 (2012): n. pag. Web. 8 July 2015. <http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0051380>.