Cultivating empathy and optimism through random acts of kindness – MindUP™ Monday

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Photo credit: Gidy.com

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” -Aesop

Think back to a time when someone helped you out unexpectedly or gave you a compliment. Did you feel appreciated? Thankful? Memories like this have intense staying and often remind us that we can act in the same way to help, encourage, or comfort someone else. Socially, acts of kindness cultivate shared happiness, build relationships, and give people a sense of connectedness to a group, community, or place. Best of all, they are an excellent way to build a classroom community full of good will and optimism.

Practicing compassion and empathy through skill-builders like committing random acts of kindness builds the social and emotional competence that children need in order to be resilient and confident. Research has shown that children who are socially responsible, trust their classmates, and solve interpersonal problems in adaptive ways earn higher marks than those who do not. (Wentzel, 1991) As children develop compassion and empathy, they learn to recognize that their words and actions have an impact on others. This feeling of interconnectedness helps them reflect on their responses to the words and actions of others, as well as better monitor and control their emotional responses.

One easy way to practice this is by incorporating daily acts of kindness into your classroom, such as having students generate compliments to one another. Help students understand that acting on kindness is a choice that they can make easily and often, and that kindness can take many forms. It is helpful to share examples that expand students’ understanding of kindness from a single type of action, such as compliments, to a range of acts that involve caring for people and other living.

What are some other examples of selfless acts? Have you ever felt better after being kind to someone? Describe how you felt before and how you felt after. What do you think was going on in your brain?

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