Is kindness something that can be taught? Is it just about doing good deeds or is it something much more? The Happiness Project- a series of lessons I've designed and taught for small groups of children with challenging behaviour, looks (in part) at kindness and the impact it has on our happiness.
There's been plenty of research done to suggest that carrying out kind acts is good for us. It makes us feel happier. Evidence shows that kindness spreads: when one kind deed is done, it spurs on the receiver to do another. There seems to be a bit of an epidemic of people carrying out these acts of kindness. So, I thought I'd spread the word and tell my pupils about it...
I started by sharing images, quotes, videos and stories about people doing kind things for others. We imagined how the people involved must have felt. We thought of our school community and how kind we really are. We reflected on our own behaviour: when was the last time you did something kind for someone? What was it? How did you feel? When was someone last kind to you? Did you like it? After these reflections, we came up with a long list of kind things that we could carry out. We made a calendar (almost like an advent calendar) and each door opened to reveal one of these kind acts.
Each day a different child would open the door and then all of us would have to make it our mission to carry out the kindness at some point that day. The next day, we would briefly discuss and then repeat for one month.What a lovely month it was! Doors were opened, people were made cups of tea, smiles were exchanged and the whole place buzzed with a nice vibe. People reported that they did feel happier, adults and children alike, when these deeds were being carried out. The children enjoyed opening the little doors and carrying out the deeds. All in all, a successful experience. I would recommend trying it at home, in work or school.
But...did it last? Did the kindness go beyond carrying out the pre-determined "act"? It's hard to say. Is it harder to be kind when you feel like the world isn't kind to you? Can we make people more kind just by practising kind acts? Maybe it is just about sowing little seeds in children's minds.