Everyone knows the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have done to you. But how many people actually intentionally practice that on any given day? How many people go out of their way to perform acts of kindness for someone else? So often we’re caught up in what we’re doing, what tasks need to be accomplished or doing the same things for those loved ones around us that we forget to do something extra every once in a while.
Research Showing Importance of Acts of Kindness
Studies have shown that performing acts of kindness can increase hormones such as oxytocin which makes a person feel more loving and more loved. There is a reduction in blood pressure for both the person performing the act of kindness as well as the recipient. There is also an increase in serotonin, the chemical that helps us feel good.
Teach Your Kids How to Perform an Act of Kindness
First, talk with your child about the importance of doing something nice for someone that is above and beyond what s/he would normally do. Doing something positive for someone else will have a great impact on the person as well as on your child. It could be something small or something bigger, but it has to be something intentional and unexpected.
Next, talk with your child about who they would like to help. The person could be someone your child has already thought about or interacted with or it could be someone new. Encourage your child that it can be anyone — even a stranger. Emphasize that an act of kindness for someone who is struggling will be particularly meaningful. That person will feel cared about which will have a positive impact.
Then brainstorm ideas of what s/he would like to do for the person. Your child may come up with some over-the-top ideas that aren’t practical and that’s okay. Let him/her have this chance to dream up all kinds of ideas. Then you can gently guide him/her in a direction that would work the best. For an unworkable idea, you could simply pose questions like, how would we do that or how might that work? Your child will probably come to the same conclusion as you that some ideas are more practical than others, but you want to let him/her make those choices.
You and your child decide if the act of kindness will be “top secret” or not. Something top secret would be done anonymously. Your child can tell the person it was him/her afterward or s/he can decide to remain anonymous. S/he might want to do a top secret mission for you, so allow independent brainstorming if that’s the direction s/he wants to take.
Now it’s time to act! Offer to be a support player if you child needs someone to help out. Maybe the mission is to make a card for someone, so make sure you have the right materials. Maybe the mission is baking cookies for a neighbor, so be sure to have the ingredients and offer to lend a helping hand. Or maybe the mission is simply leaving an anonymous encouraging note which s/he can do on his/her own. Regardless of what your child chooses to do — and make sure s/he ultimately decides what to do — support the effort (within reason of course!).
Finally, it’s time for the all-important debriefing session. It’s crucial to take the time, even if it’s just for a few minutes, to reflect on what your child did. Highlight how your child felt after s/he did something nice. Emphasize that doing good things for others makes others feel valued and also makes you feel good.
Some Extra Help
HAPPÉ Life offers a series of free videos that emphasize self-awareness and relationship skills. These fun, quick videos give children (a.k.a. the secret agent) missions to accomplish each week. The Mission I’m Possible videos are a great tool for families to use to develop these important interpersonal skills. Performing acts of kindness is one of the missions in the series. To begin your adventure, sign up here.
The act of kindness you and your child choose should be positive, purposeful, and unexpected. It is important that you highlight for your child the intentionality behind the act of kindness. We must choose to do good which is an ability everyone has. After many kind acts and many good decisions, positivity will come very naturally to your child. S/he will grow into a person who is kind, focused on others, and happy.
At H-A-P-P-Ē.Life we have created programs to support the continuous development of your psychological health and well-being. We are dedicated to helping you navigate life more fully and successfully through fun programs aimed at you and your child’s social, emotional, and mental health. The Mission I’m Possible series contains short videos designed to teach kids lessons about self-awareness and relationship development. They are enjoyable activities you can do together as a family that impart valuable skills. To sign up for the Mission I’m Possible series at no charge, click here.