Do you remember the playground line “If you give me a crisp then I’ll be your best friend”? This isn’t exactly an act of kindness, but more a popularity bargaining tool used by children to benefit both parties.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia and the University of California have approached this in a different way by tasking a group of children in Canada to perform deliberate acts of kindness to see if this boosts acceptance among peers; and ultimately an individual’s happiness.
The findings published on 26 December 2012, state that “Increasing peer acceptance is a critical goal, as it is related to a variety of important academic and social outcomes, including reduced likelihood of being bullied.”
In Vancouver, 400 pupils age 9-11 across 19 school classrooms were assigned three tasks each per week over a period of four weeks. Tasks not only included acts of kindness to peers such as “gave someone some of my lunch”, but also such as “carrying groceries” and “gave my mom a hug when she was stressed by her job”.
Before and after the ‘acts of kindness’, pupils reported on their ‘life satisfaction’, they were also asked to circle the name of students that they would like to spend time doing activities with. Overall results showed significant increases in positive affect and marginally significant increases in life satisfaction.
Dr Kristin Layous from the department of psychology at the University of California explained their conclusions. Being liked by their classmates is not only beneficial for the individual but also for the whole community. As an example, a popular pre-adolescent is more inclusive towards others and is far less likely to bully other children too.
“Entire classrooms practicing prosocial behavior may reap benefits, as the liking of all classmates soars.” says Dr Layous.
The hope of this research is that teachers may regularly assign students specific ‘acts of kindness’ to enhance the ‘well-being’ of the classroom.
If your child would like to a make New Years’ Resolution, then maybe this is a worthy one? Why not assign them a deliberate ‘act of kindness’ to family or peers; whilst demonstrating one yourself.