“Why should I be nice to people? They aren’t nice to me…” This is a common response from adolescents when I try and engage them in the notion of being “kind.”
Researchers will tell us that because of the adolescent brain, the teaching of such concepts need to demonstrate: “What’s in it for me?” In fact one student used these exact words the very first time I introduced it in class.
Along with Ray Francis, the co-developer of Happy Schools we decided to try an activity that had been shown in a variety of settings to do just that.
Each member of the class is assigned a random “Secret Buddy.” Over the course of a number of weeks each person should perform one or two acts of kindness for their “Buddy” per week.
Each week the group are surveyed anonymously – we used Google Docs, but you could use any pen and paper if you like – as to how happy they were with the act of kindness they received (if indeed they identified it) as well as how happy they felt after performing an act of kindness.
Typically over the course of 3 weeks or more, students report that performing acts of kindness makes them happier than receiving.
Furthermore, students will often report that feeling happy improves their mental wellbeing, so they can extrapolate that further by saying that being kind to other people is actually good for their health… and that’s what’s in it for me.
This activity also works really well with staff, so why not give it a go?
I’ve also recently come across the notion of Suspended Coffee. The idea being you buy an extra coffee, but leave it “suspended” so to speak, so someone later in the day, who may otherwise not be able to afford a coffee can take advantage of it.
Go on, do something nice for someone… it’s good for them, and great for you!
Author: Dan Haesler, he is a teacher, consultant, and speaker at the Mental Health & Wellbeing of Young People seminars. He is the co-developer of Happy Schools and blogs at http://danhaesler.com/ and tweets at @danhaesler