We often encourage our kids to do good deeds simply for the sake of being good and helpful. Now, a new study suggests that children's kindness has surprising benefits beyond those gained by the recipients of their actions: increased happiness for the doer and greater acceptance by peers.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the University of California, Riverside randomly assigned students for four weeks to either perform three acts of kindness each week—such as sharing their lunch or giving their mom a hug when she was stressed—or visit any three places. While both groups of students reported being happier after the test period, those that performed kind acts found that they were selected for peer activities in school more often and actually gained more friends—indicating that their kindness helped them become more popular and accepted by their peers.
“We show that kindness has some real benefits for the personal happiness of children but also for the classroom community,” said Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, a professor in UCB’s department of education and counseling psychology.
The results of the study are particularly valuable to educators. Feeling accepted by peers is a crucial part of preventing bullying, so learning that kids simply being kind to others can increase that level of acceptance is encouraging. With this knowledge, educators can reevaluate strategies to creating a better classroom environment. And by actively encouraging their children to perform acts of kindness, parents can play a strog role in not only raising good people, but also helping their children to be happier and more comfortable in peer settings.