New research from the University of British Columbia and the University of California, Riverside suggests that children who make an effort to perform acts of kindness are happier and experience greater acceptance from their peers.
From the study’s press release:
Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, a professor in UBC’s Faculty of Education, and co-author Kristin Layous, of the University of California, Riverside, say that increasing peer acceptance is key to preventing bullying.
In the study, published today by PLOS ONE, researchers examined how to boost happiness in students aged 9 to 11 years. Four hundred students from Vancouver elementary schools were asked to report on their happiness and to identify which of their classmates they would like to work with on school activities. Half of the students were asked by their teachers to perform acts of kindness – like sharing their lunch or giving their mom a hug when she felt stressed – and half were asked to keep track of pleasant places they visited – like the playground or a grandparent’s house.
After four weeks, the students again reported on their happiness and identified classmates they would like to work with. While both groups said they were happier, kids that had performed acts of kindness selected higher numbers of classmates to work with on school activities.
“We show that kindness has some real benefits for the personal happiness of children but also for the classroom community,” says Schonert-Reichl, also a researcher with the Human Early Learning Partnership at UBC.
According to Schonert-Reichl, bullying tends to increase in Grades 4 and 5. By simply asking students to think about how they can act kindly to those around them, “teachers can create a sense of connectedness in the classroom and reduce the likelihood of bullying.”
Okay…my question is – do we really need research like this to tell us what we already know? Of course children (hell, people in general) are going to feel more connected and accepted if they establish positive relationships with their peers. This is why I believe strongly in school programs like Roots of Empathy. I just wish that these kinds of programs continued into the older grades, when bullying behaviour becomes more prevlaent. Also, parents need to take an active role in teaching their children empathy, encouraging acts of kindness and rewarding this positive behaviour when they see it.
Less electronics and isolation + More positive connection = Happier, kinder people…doesn’t seem like rocket science to me.