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How to be happy and popular

Apparently, the mean girls got it wrong. The ticket to popularity isn’t backstabbing – it’s kindness.

A recent study backs up what our mothers told us: be nice. Share. Perform acts of kindness and generosity, and you’ll make new friends and keep the old ones.

In the study, 9 – 11 year olds were asked to perform three acts of kindness each week. These were simple things, like sharing their lunch or giving mom a hug to cheer her up. The kids in the kindness group, at the study’s end, had gained friends. The acts of kindness performed by these kids didn’t require any money. They were easy, simple ways to help out others at home, school, or in the community.

Lots of studies have shown that doing things for others makes us happier. Giving money away – even if it’s just $5 – provides a nice little boost of joy. Yesterday, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, my kids and I collected gently worn coats and clothing to donate to others, and that small act was a bright spot I thought of often  during the late afternoon attack of cranky tantrum monsters at our house.

It’s something any parent has noticed on the playground: toddlers who share their sand toys gain a buddy to dig alongside them. Take that same principle to a broader scale, and those kids, and adults, who are philanthropists in the broadest sense of the word – who are trying to make the world a better place – also get a personal benefit from their do-gooding. While making the world a better place is its own reward, and it’s also, I think, our duty to care for our planet and our fellow human beings, the added benefit of more friends and a little happiness is certainly nice.

Want to intentionally make acts of kindness a part of your kids’ days? Guerilla Goodness (from Kindness Girl Patience Salgado) has a toolkit for families looking to do just that. It includes two of my kids’ favorite things: surprises and Legos. We’re going to keep our own efforts to make the world a better place going by building an all-red Lego Castle, with each brick representing an act of kindness like comforting a friend with a skinned knee, donating non-perishables to a local food pantry, or making a Get Well Soon card for grandma.

 

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