Children who make an effort to perform acts of kindness are happier and experience greater acceptance from their peers, according to new research.
This could be a key to preventing bullying, said researchers Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, Ph.D., a professor at the University of British Columbia, and Kristin Layous of the University of California, Riverside.
For their study, the researchers asked 400 students in Vancouver elementary schools between the ages of 9 and 11 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, such as 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,” said Schonert-Reichl.
She also noted that bullying tends to increase in grades four and five.
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.”
Source: University of British Columbia