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Teaching Random Acts of Kindness to Your Kids

 A little boy and his older brother protect themselves from the rain with an umbrella, in the city

Estersinhache fotografía/Moment/Getty

Key Takeaways

  • Random Acts of Kindness Week is February 14-20, 2021.
  • Kindness is teachable and contagious.
  • Children can learn kindness through hands-on learning and through reading.

“Children are so cruel” is a sentiment many parents have uttered when their child is the recipient of brutal schoolyard taunts. But what if we had the power to change that? What if we could give our children the power to change that sentiment to "Children are so kind"?

February 14-20 is Random Acts of Kindness Week, an opportunity to highlight kindness and embark on instilling it in our own lives and the lives of our children.

Kindness conveys numerous health benefits to both the giver and receiver of kind deeds. But, the best thing about it is that kindness is teachable and contagious. If we can teach our children to be kind, then in time, as kindness spreads, the world may be a kinder place.

Kindness Is Teachable

Studies have shown that when classroom social/emotional learning programs are implemented, children have an increased sense of empathy, decreased aggressive/antisocial behavior, and increased acceptance of their peers.

Jeanne Huybrechts, the chief academic officer at Stratford School, says that by teaching kindness, we lay the foundation for more complex social and emotional skills as children get older.

Jeanne Huybrechts, Chief Academic Officer at Stratford School

Kindness becomes a social-emotional-learning 'starter skill.'

— Jeanne Huybrechts, Chief Academic Officer at Stratford School

“Preschoolers perfectly understand what ‘kindness’ means,” Huybrechts explains, “So, kindness becomes a way of behaving that serves as the basis for developing a broader range of habits and understandings about how to be a good person and good friend.”

Children learn well through hands-on learning, such as when they have first-hand experience performing an act of kindness. Parents can help children by setting an example and performing kind acts themselves.

Discussing or reflecting on the experience with their child helps to cement the learning. According to Huybrechts, this act of reflecting on the experience is where most of the learning happens.

Books for Children and Parents to Learn Kindness

Sometimes, due to location, circumstances, or surroundings, the opportunity for random kind acts can be limited. This is where books and stories can be beneficial in exposing children to a greater understanding of kindness.

“As parents, you can be part of this learning experience.” says Huybrechts. “Select some books about kindness, or better yet, books that feature strong, multifaceted characters who are kind or generous.” Similar to hands-on learning, reflecting on a story by discussing the character and their experiences can help deepen learning. She recommends these titles.

Grades K-2

Grades 3-4 

  • The Cat Man of Aleppo, written by Irene Latham and Karim Shamsi-Basha, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu
  • Smile, written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier

Grades 5-8

  • Wishtree, written by Katherine Applegate
  • Ghost, written by Jason Reynolds

For parents, she recommends Books that Build Character: A Guide to Teaching Your Child Moral Values Through Stories, by William Kilpatrick.

Kindness Is Contagious

According to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, performing acts of kindness increases the feel-good chemicals in our body. When we do something that makes us feel good, we usually want to repeat that behavior.

Not only does giving kindness increase good feelings, but witnessing kindness can also increase feel-good chemicals and encourages those who simply watched a kind act to follow suit.

With this in mind, teaching children kindness through modeling the behavior and expanding their awareness through books may help spread kindness among other children. If we instill these characteristics in them now, they are likelier to maintain these values throughout their lives.

Random Acts of Kindness You Can Do With Your Kids

Brooke Jones, vice president of the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, offers some suggestions of kindness acts that families can do together. The foundation offers a free Community Challenge Book, which contains these suggestions and many more. “It’s a great way for families to do something fun and engaging together,” explains Jones, “[and] it can be adapted easily for COVID.”

Be Kind to Others

  • Write a positive note and leave it for someone in your neighborhood to find.
  • Give a genuine compliment to someone.
  • Call a school in your neighborhood and ask to pay off overdue lunch accounts for kids.

Be Kind to Nature 

  • Take a walk in your neighborhood and pick up any litter you find.
  • Organize a community clean-up with neighbors and friends.
  • Don’t use any single-use plastics for a month.

Be Kind to Animals

  • Gather old (clean) towels and bring them to your local animal shelter.
  • Try a new meatless recipe to prepare at home.
  • Don’t pick dandelions (bees need them as food in spring).

Be Kind to Yourself

  • Take a nature walk or hike.
  • Meditate for at least 15 minutes.
  • Go to your local farmers' market and treat yourself to a fresh and delicious snack.

For more information on the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, more ideas on how to increase kindness, or curriculum details for school programs, head to randomactsofkindness.org.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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  1. Schonert-Reichl KA, Arruda JW. UBC summary report of research: Preliminary findings. Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. Published February 3, 2018.