Psychology Today knows most parents and teachers want children to be happy. Unfortunately, we don’t make children happy by simply enabling them to be receivers of kindness. We increase their feelings of happiness and well-being, reduce bullying, and improve their friendships by teaching them to be givers of kindness. The truth is that children are born to be altruistic givers. But somewhere between birth and 4th grade, they are socialized to think more about themselves than others.
A study, Kindness Counts, conducted by researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of California, Riverside, broke new ground by showing the benefits derived by tweens when they were taught happiness-increasing strategies. For a month, several hundred 9-11 year-olds performed and recorded three acts of kindness each week for anyone they wished. Another several hundred kept track of three pleasant places they visited during the week.
Not surprisingly, the results were consistent with adult studies. When kids performed acts of kindness or took notice of the pleasant places they visited during the week, they significantly increased feelings of happiness and satisfaction. But those who performed acts of kindness received an additional benefit. Measuring how well children were liked or accepted by their peers, the study showed those who performed acts of kindness gained an average of 1.5 friends during the four-week period – good support for the idea that “nice guys finish first.”
Like many others, this study demonstrated that being kind to other people benefits the giver. For children, it earns them increased well-being and also popularity and acceptance among peers. Read more…