New research reported by HealthDay News suggests that kids are happier when they act kind.
A month-long study between more than 400 boys and girls, ages 9-12, compared those who engaged in “acts of kindness” toward someone else with those who simply visited a series of “pleasant places.” Kids in the kind group were asked to perform acts of kindness, such as giving hugs or sharing their lunch, while kids in the other group were asked to journal the pleasant places they visited like the mall, a sports facility, or a relative’s home. At the end of the study, the kids were asked to give a report on their “state of mind.”
Kind kids reported that they were relatively happier by the end of the month. While both groups admitted to experiencing a boost in their overall sense of “well-being” during the study, kids in the kind group were more likely to be chosen by their peers as someone to hang out with in school.
According to study author Kristin Layous from the University of California, Riverside:
The findings suggest that a simple and relatively brief prosocial activity can increase liking among classmates. Given the relationship between peer acceptance and many social and academic outcomes, we think these findings have important implications for the classroom.
So, how can Auntie help raise kind kids and nurture happier nieces and nephews?
1. Encourage acts of kindness in the home and around the community.
Make suggestions for kind acts that the kids can easily accomplish on their own, such as helping their parents out with home chores. If they’re old enough, help them find opportunities to volunteer at community centers or shelters. You can even put together a prosocial, community event with a group of their friends that may later form into a monthly or annual community service tradition or an after school club—a huge bonus for their educational records.
2. Model kind behavior.
Show nieces and nephews that kind acts don’t necessarily need to be flamboyant or extravagant displays of generosity. Simply helping someone across the street or holding the door open may suffice as a kind gesture toward another community member.
3. Talk to kids about being kind as often as you can.
If you have nieces and nephews visit or call you after school, talk to them about their day and help them discover ways in which they could participate in acts of kindness in their classrooms. If they confide in you about difficult issues with their peers, suggest ways in which they might turn the situations around with kind acts.