Monday, December 31, 2012

Happiness Explained: How Teaching Our Children to Be Kind Can Make Them Happier and Bullyproof

Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, an applied developmental psychologist at the University of British Columbia wanted to see how performing random acts of kindness can decrease bullying, increase empathy and caring for others in children.

She conducted a longitudinal experiment in 19 classrooms in Vancouver, 9- to 11-year olds were instructed to perform three acts of kindness (versus visit three places) per week over the course of 4 weeks. Students in both conditions improved in well-being, but students who performed kind acts experienced significantly bigger increases in peer acceptance (or sociometric popularity) than students who visited places. 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.

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.”

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