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While kindness might seem pretty straightforward to learn, it’s a bit more complex than meets the eye. We are tackling the kindness dilemma by working with youth leaders in our community to do more to help others at their schools and in their communities.

Kindness Campaign – We are born to be givers. But by 4th grade, research shows children are socialized to think more about themselves than others. How do we reverse this trend and create long-lasting habits of kindness to better our community and those who are homeless? A research study, Kindness Counts, from the University of British Columbia and the University of California, Riverside, showed the benefits derived by tweens when they were taught strategies to increase their happiness through acts of kindness.

For thirty days, several hundred 9 to 11-year-old children performed and recorded three acts of kindness each week for anyone they chose. Another several hundred kept weekly track of three pleasant places they visited. Not surprisingly, results compared favorably with adult studies. When people performed acts of kindness or took notice of the pleasant places they visited, their happiness quotient increased. But those who performed acts of kindness received an extra boost. The study showed they gained an average of 1.5 friends during the month-long period—good support for the idea that “nice guys finish first.” Like other studies, this research showed that being kind to other people benefits the giver.

For children, it nurtures their well-being and increases their positive connections with peers. When children learn to be caring and kind, they also benefit developmentally. Well-liked children display more positive, less bullying behaviors when they become teenagers. Happier kids are more likely to show higher academic achievement. Being kind makes you feel good about yourself and improves your outlook on life. Applying the Kindness Counts study in your home, community, or school is easy. Follow these four steps to help enable children to be givers of kindness. Your efforts will be greatly rewarded!

1. Understand the Importance of Kindness: Learn about the benefits of giving. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation website is a terrific place to start. They have classroom and home activities for people of all ages.

2. Create a Kindness Project: Devise an activity where your family or members of your school club or class records ONE act of kindness or ONE pleasant activity per day. You might call it your “Kindness Project” or “Happiness Diary.” These activities could include helping with dishes, letting someone else go first, taking care of an animal, going out of way the for a friend, hugging someone to make them feel better, etc. Or they might include visits to places and experiences that make us feel good, like visiting a favorite park or a grandparent’s house.

3. Take Time to Share: On a regular weekly basis, take time to share as a family or classroom. Rather than sharing everything in your diary, share the highlights of your week. Share enough so that everyone learns from each other’s acts of kindness and begins to understand the types of experiences that bring gratitude to life. Sharing encourages self-reflection and helps bring meaning to our actions.

4. Practice, Practice, Practice: It may not be practical to keep up a routine where you are sharing from a diary on a regular basis. Reinforcement of the kindness habit comes with practice. But once children get into the habit, it’s easy to share from time to time. Whether it’s planting a peace garden, making a get-well card for a sick friend, giving a homeless person a $20.00 grocery story gift card or simply inviting someone new to sit at your school lunch table, or sending a birthday card to a nursing home resident, there are many free and easy ways you can help create a more peaceful world. Just start today by doing something very simple – may roll your elderly neighbor’s garbage can in from the curb. A small act of kindness really goes a long way.

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