Everyone wants their children to be kind and to receive kindness. Seeing kindness in action, doing kind acts and receiving kindness makes us feel good.
Would you like to increase acts of kindness in your classroom or at home?
Here’s how you can do just that and increase the wellbeing of your children.
But first a dose of science…
Yes, I’m a science geek and I strive to have a solid science base for all of the interventions ( fancy word for activities ) that I recommend to you.
The science of kindness
Doing simple fun acts of kindness affects our wellbeing and makes the recipients happy, too!
Scientists have actually studied kindness and Lyubomirsky and her colleagues from the University of California found out that kindness and wellbeing are linked. (1) They asked students to perform five random acts of kindness for six weeks.
A random act of kindness was defined as a behaviour that benefits others or makes others happy. Like offering your seat to an elderly or cooking a meal for someone. The results of this study showed that the students who performed random acts of kindness, as opposed to the control group, experienced an increase in happiness.
Another study found out that students who do random acts of kindness become more popular. The study summarised that to be happy, to be good, and to be well liked are linked together. And that kindness boosts peer acceptance and well-being.
The 9- to 11-year-olds in Vancouver who performed three acts of kindness each week during the 4-week study improved their well-being and increased their popularity. The researchers concluded that peer acceptance is important as it’s related to important academic and social outcomes, including being helpful, cooperative, and emotionally well-adjusted. (3)
Win win win! :-)
So, here’s how you can do the same thing at home or at school.
Positive Psychology for Kids: Random Acts of Kindness in Three Steps
Step 1. Introduce children to the concept of kindness
This is simple. Set an example. Do something kind to your children. Then ask them how it made them feel. Next, tell them how it felt for you to do the kind act. Kindness, of course, feels good to do and to receive. Finally, ask them if they’d like to try it out for themselves and see if it makes them feel happy.
Step 2. Elicit random acts of kindness
Your happiness grows when you are aware of the kind things you do. (2) So, to teach children kindness we create awareness of the specific kind act and how it affects them and the recipient.
For older children and youth: Three acts of kindness
Start by introducing the concept of kindness and explain how even tiny acts of kindness can brighten another’s day. Then make a kindness plan like this:
This week I plan to help others and make others happy by:
1. Random act of kindness #1
2. Random act of kindness #2
3. Random act of kindness #3
At the end of the week review the acts of kindness AND how it made them and the recipient feel, like this:
This week I helped others and made others happy by:
1. Random act of kindness #1. What happened? How did it make you feel?
2. Random act of kindness #2. What happened? How did it make you feel?
3. Random act of kindness #3. What happened? How did it make you feel?
Try this at least for a week and see what happens.
Don’t be afraid to start a happiness contagion! :-)
For younger children: A daily act of kindness
Introduce the concept of kindness and explain how even tiny acts of kindness can brighten another’s day. Then plan together just one act of kindness they can perform this day. The act can be super simple like calling grandma or asking someone who’s new to sit with you at lunch.
This week my son and I are going to write to the kitchen staff at his school and thank them for the love and effort they put into feeding the whole school every day. And we’re going to draw a thank you card with flowers to the people who plant flowers in our little city – I bet they don’t get feedback that often. They do a wonderful job and it brightens our day to see all the flowers.
You can do “kindness brainstorming” at the breakfast table to start the day on a positive note, while driving your kids to school or as a mindful way to start class.
What kind of random acts of kindness can children and students do? Here are a few ideas for you…
40 kid-friendly ideas for fun random acts of kindness
Okay, try these ideas and brainstorm some more:
1. Hold the door open for someone.
2. Write a thank you note.
3. Call a friend you haven’t seen in a while to say hello.
4. Do a chore for someone at home without them knowing.
5. Let someone go ahead of you in line.
6. Make a get well card for someone
7. Say please and thank you as much as possible.
8. Set the table for dinner.
9. Help make dinner.
10. Tell a joke to someone who is having a bad day.
11. Donate socks and supplies to the homeless shelter.
12. Clean up your room without being asked.
13. Stick up for a someone who is being bullied.
14. Compliment a friend.
15. Hold the elevator for someone.
16. Organize a family game night.
17. Return someone’s cart at the store.
18. Talk to someone new at school.
19. Help someone pick up things they dropped.
20. Donate a toy to Toys for Tots.
21. Make muffins for someone.
22. Smile at everybody. Smiles are contagious.
23. Make a bag of treats for a family.
24. Wash the dishes.
25. Teach something to a friend.
26. Bury treasure at the playground.
27. Spend time with your grandparents.
28. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth.
29. Make a homemade gift for someone.
30. Reuse paper when you are drawing.
31. Give high fives to a friend.
32. Read a book to someone.
33. Wave at kids on school buses.
34. Tell the principal how great your teacher is.
35. Give someone a hug coupon.
36. Collect books for the library.
37. Invite someone to sit with you at lunch.
38. Bake dessert for a neighbor.
39. Take treats to the fire station.
40. Figure out a way to be kind to yourself!
Let me know what you come up with and what your kids like.
Step 3. Make kindness a habit
We know it’s beneficial but how do you keep going? Try these two ideas:
1. Model it. Show your children how you do random acts of kindness. When you have a chance to perform a random act of kindness go for it. You can even point it out for little kids, what you did and how it made you and the recipient feel. The more they see you do it the more they will want to try.
2. Make a daily habit of asking your children kindness questions. Here are three great questions you can ask to spend more time thinking about kindness.
“What was your good deed today?”
“Did you see someone do something kind today?”
“What is something kind you can do today?”
Yesterday when I asked my son what his good deed was, he told me that he had taught his friend Freya how to tell the time on an analog clock at school. He wondered if it was an act of kindness. It certainly was!
Boosting kindness and happiness is easy, go for it :-)
If you enjoyed this mindfulness and positive psychology based activity then consider signing up for my upcoming children’s gratitude and well-being journal series and see if you will be one of the lucky ones to test drive the first journal for free before the launch. Click here to sign up.
With gratitude, Chris Bergstrom
Chief Mindfulness Ninja @ Blissful Kids
#1 Best-Selling Author of:
Ultimate Mindfulness Activity Book: 150 Playful Mindfulness Activities for Kids and Teens
★★★★★ Awesome “Bought this book for my 6 year old, but even my 3 and 15 yo love the activities. We usually incorporate activities on a daily basis and it’s been working so far.”
Baby Shark Saves the Day
★★★★★ Cute and calming “With the craze being all about baby sharks, it’s a great idea to take it and use it to help our kids calm down themselves. I’m a therapist and look forward to using this with my kid clients.”
Chris Bergstrom is a bestselling mindfulness author, a leader in the field of mindfulness, the founder of BlissfulKids.com, a blog dedicated to children’s mindfulness, and a dad who is thrilled to practice mindfulness with his son. He is a certified mindfulness facilitator and trained to teach mindfulness to students in K-12. He’s also known as “the dad who tried 200+ mindfulness activities” and has taught meditation for more than 15 years.
- Lyubomirsky, S., Tkach, C., & Yelverton, J. (2004). Pursuing sustained happiness through random acts of kindness and counting one’s blessings: Tests of two six-week interventions. Unpublished data, University of California, Riverside, Department of Psychology.
- Otake, K., Shimai, S., Tanaka-Matsumi, J., Otsui, K., & Frederickson, B. L. (2006). Happy people become happier through kindness: A counting kindnesses intervention—Journal of Happiness Studies, 7, 361-375.
- Layous, K., Nelson, S. K., Oberle, E., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2012). Kindness counts: Prompting prosocial behavior in preadolescents boosts peer acceptance and well-being. PloS one, 7(12), e51380.