It's Good to be Kind!

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It really is good to be kind.

Two scientific findings are dramatically shifting how we look at kindness. The first is that kindness has more (and wider reaching) benefits than was recognized just a decade ago. The second is that researchers have underestimated the capacity for kindness in children. Together, this knowledge helps us to maximize our efforts to strengthen the Heart-Mind well-being of children. 

Feeling good is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of being kind. Recent  studies make the kindness-happiness-health connection stronger than ever:

The takeaway message from these (and other) peer-reviewed research studies is that kind acts have the potential to spread the “good” of kindness into many areas of our lives.

When we accept that children are able to be kind, we can intentionally create more opportunities for those strengths to surface. This is in contrast to the traditional idea that society must mold children through different stages of development and “tame them” or “socialize” their natural aggressive tendencies. Even highly regarded developmental theorist Piaget[6], who has contributed much to understanding children’s growth and development, believed that children were unable to take another person’s perspective when they were very young. We now know that this is not true. Research has demonstrated that children as young as 3 months old notice kindness and goodness in others and can, indeed, take on other perspectives.  

If being kind is good, and children are competent at being kind, how does this information change what we do?

  1. Create opportunities that use and surface a child’s naturally kind strengths.

  2. Give children and youth many opportunities to be kind and helpful.

  3. When unkind actions occur, choose an authoritative/inductive approach to parenting[7] which emphasizes communication between adult and child about the effects of actions on others.

Study participants (male and female adults) who were randomly assigned to spend money on other people experienced greater happiness than those assigned to spend money on themselves. 

Published in 2012, this study shows that 'giving' leads to happiness in young children before the age of two. Of note, children are happier after engaging in 'costly giving' (give up their own treats).

In a study of older adults, individuals who cared for a spouse had lower rates of mortality than those who did not provide any care to their spouse. This study make the link between "helping" and the "longevity of the helper."

In a randomized controlled trial over 4 months, 10th grade students who volunteered one hour every week for four weeks significantly lowered their risk factors related to heart health. 

In a study of urban 9-11 year olds, those that performed three acts of kindness per week (compared to a control group) showed improvements both in well-being and in peer acceptance (popularity).

Jean Piaget (1896 - 1980) was a psychologist who developed a theory of cognitive child development. His theory helped to describe the evolution of a child's capacity to learn as he or she grows. One element of his theory that is now starting to be disputed is his assertation that before the age of 18 months, children are not capable of complex thinking (such as understanding kindness).

"Inductive Parenting" is a term to describe a relationship approach to parenting that balances limits, rules and consequences with flexibility. The key is for decision making to involve both parents and children (although the final decision remains the responsibility of the parent).

  • Secure and Calm

    Secure and calm describes the ability to take part in daily activities and approach new situations without being overwhelmed with worries, sadness or anxiety. To be secure and calm also means being able to cope with stress and pressure, and to bounce back from difficulties.
  • Gets Along with Others

    Getting along with others is the ability to form positive and healthy relationships with peers and adults. Children with better abilities to regulate their emotions and behaviours have more friends and experience more positive playtime with their peers.
  • Alert and Engaged

    Being alert and engaged is the ability to manage and direct one's own feelings, thoughts and emotions. In general, the ability to be 'present' and to exercise self-control.
  • Compassionate and Kind

    Being compassionate and kind is closely related to empathy. While empathy refers more generally to the ability to take the perspective of and to feel the emotions of another person, compassion goes one step further.
  • Solves Problems Peacefully

    Managing conflict effectively is about creating an atmosphere where violence and aggression are not likely. To resolve conflict means using empathy, problem-solving skills, understanding other points of view and coming up with ways to make things right in a fair way.