One of the most commonly accepted definitions of kindness is “a benevolent and helpful action intentionally directed towards another person… motivated by the desire to help another” (Pam, 2013). Put simply, kindness involves being generous, caring and compassionate towards others.

Adolescence is a developmental period characterised by progressively increasing independence and desire for peer connection. Fostering kindness in our teenagers helps them to develop their social relationships and peer belonging; in one study, students who demonstrated kindness towards their classmates were more likely to report higher levels of social connectedness and peer acceptance (Layous et al., 2012). Research also shows that kindness towards people within a peer group can spread to kind acts towards others outside of the group – essentially highlighting the ‘ripple effect’ of kindness (Haesung et al., 2020).

As well as enhancing social connections, acts of kindness can lead to a multitude of other positive impacts for both the benefactor and recipient, including: enhanced happiness and self-esteem, greater cognitive and academic performance, and reduced physical ill-health. Kind acts have been shown to boost levels of optimism, purpose, and gratitude, all of which build upon self-concept, relationships and consequently our wellbeing (Layous et al., 2012; Suldo et al., 2017; Suldo et al., 2014; Tashjiian, 2018).

While typical definitions of kindness highlight compassion towards others, self-compassion is equally important. The ability to treat oneself kindly when faced with disappointment – with the same warmth, care and understanding as you would someone else – helps us to develop resilience and ‘bounce back’ when life doesn’t go as planned.

Try this!

Encourage your child to practise kindness by:

  • Recognising and modelling kindness and compassion at home
  • Encourage service learning, community, and charitable opportunities
  • Encourage caring for animals or pets at home
  • Talking to your child about opportunities to practise kindness at school – for example, taking the time to listen to a friend or inviting another student to join in their peer group.

Help your child to develop self-compassion, by:

  1. Noticing when they are using negative self-talk – e.g., “I’m so stupid”
  2. Letting your child know that it’s ok to find things difficult and that everyone makes mistakes
  3. Encouraging your child to say something kind to themselves – to ‘treat yourself like you would a good mate’, e.g., “I’m doing the best I can”

Further resources: