Why is it important to acknowledge kindness and kind acts? We sat down with kindness expert and UBC Assist. Prof. John-Tyler Binfet on World Kindness Day to discuss his kindness research in schools and how it relates to everyday life.
Q: Dr. Binfet, could you please give us a brief background about the kindness research you’ve conducted?
A: The research I do at UBC explores how children and adolescents think about and enact kindness in schools. Studies of over 2,500 public school students in grades kindergarten to grade 8 reveal that students are show kindness mostly by helping others emotionally and physically. Emotional kindness might be including a student who has been left out whereas physical kindness might be picking up a student’s dropped books in a busy hallway.
Q: What are the implications of studying kindness in schools? Do you think learning how to recognize kindness at a young age is important?
A: I see a shift underway in the schools I’m in where teachers and administrators are interested in moving away from anti-bullying initiatives to embrace efforts that promote prosocial behaviour – the kind of behaviour they want to see in students. This shift is due largely to the influence of positive psychology and positive education in classrooms.
Q: There seems to be a growing emphasis on kindness and mental wellbeing in the office and in aspects of every day life. Can you speak to this growing trend and give your thoughts on kindness-related work?
A: Increasingly adults are held to the same standards we uphold for children and adolescents and there is less tolerance in the workplace for the office bully. If students’ academic achievement is bolstered by them feeling socially and emotionally settled in the classroom, might workplace productivity also be enhanced when employees feel socially and emotionally supported at work?
Q: How can we acknowledge kindness on World Kindness Day, or any other day of the year? What can people do to show kindness to others?
A: World Kindness Day draws ample attention to the need for kindness but our efforts to be prosocial, to show care and concern for others, must extend beyond special event days. I’m a big proponent of intentional kindness – planning kind acts, mentoring young people in planning and being kind, and being intentionally kind to both those we know and to those we don’t yet know! Kindness has a way of bringing people together – it’s a great bridge and the more bridges we build, the better off we’ll all be.