In our busy lives, it's easy for adults to forget the importance of kindness—much less kids, who are focused on playing with friends or their new iPad app. Yet even the smallest act of kindness makes us happier. According to recent studies, when we're kind to another person, we feel more optimistic and positive.
Like with any other skill or trait, children can increase their capacity for kindness and reap the many benefits through continual practice. Showing children how important kindness is at a young age, and how good it makes them feel, increases the chances that they'll practice this important trait throughout their lives.
The good news is being kind doesn't require a grand gesture—even these eight simple acts of kindness can make a big difference. Remind the children around you how easy it is to be kind to others, by encouraging them to give these simple acts a try at least once a week.
Simply smiling at people during the day—whether they're family, friends, co-workers, customer service representatives or even people you don't know—has a number of positive benefits. According to inspiyr, smiling can have a positive effect on our mood, decrease stress levels and make everyone around you feel better.
Give a Compliment
Don't underestimate the power of a compliment. "Compliments encourage others," said Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist. "Through kind words, we remind people of their value and their talents. All of us want to be noticed—receiving compliments confirms that we are. They provide confidence and joy and hope."
Remind kids to compliment their friends and family on a regular basis. Don't forget to give out compliments whenever possible as well, to role model this kind act.
Say "Thank You"
Saying "thank you" doesn't just make you sound polite; it can make others feel better, too. "It connects one person to another," according to Psychology Today. "Saying 'thank you' doesn't just acknowledge someone's effort, thoughtfulness, intent or action. It acknowledges the person himself."
Make "thank you" an important part of your afterschool program. Give gentle reminders for kids to say "thanks," if they seem to have forgotten.
"Each time we sincerely hug someone, we are actually conveying our love and joy for that person in a way that can never be explained through our words alone," according to Collective Evolution. "We feel all our burdens ease away while we are in a hug, and those worries are replaced by increased feelings of happiness and trust."
Talk about appropriate hugging with children, making boundaries, personal space and being safe an important part of the conversation.
Pick Up the Phone
Text messages will never take the place of an old-fashioned heart-to-heart voice conversation, despite what teens may think.
Remind kids that when they connect on the phone, they can convey their tone better than through text message. This means they can empathize, offer support or comfort, and share enthusiasm and excitement.
Make Small Talk
Small talk can be as simple as asking someone about their day, which is a simple act of kindness we can all do more often. Remind kids to pair this with a smile and a compliment, for the perfect kind act that's easy to do.
Listen ... Really Listen
We talk to several people during a given day, but how often do we really listen to them? When people talk, we don't always give our undivided attention. We're either going over our to-do list in our head or are partially distracted by our smartphones. However, when someone listens to you well, it makes you feel accepted, understood, important, valued and validated.
Encourage young people to listen thoroughly before responding in a conversation. To do so, have them count to three before saying anything, giving them a chance to really think about their response and what was just said.
Pay It Forward
There are so many ways for kids to pay it forward. Remind them to return any favor, smile or compliment given. Make it into a game—when someone does nice for you, think of one way you can do the same for someone else and plan to do it at some point that day. Anyone who "pays it forward" gets a gold star.
Maile Proctor is a blogger and freelance editor. She writes about health and fitness, lifestyle and family and finance. She's written for HomeSchoolBase, Active.com, TakeLessons.com, Travefy and more. Maile earned her Bachelor's in Broadcast Journalism from Chapman University. When she's not writing, she enjoys hiking in San Diego, California.