Science shows that humans are wired for kindness; we prefer compassion and our capacity grows with practice. Spending time each day to cultivate an attitude of compassion promotes happiness and life satisfaction and helps it come more naturally to kids and adults alike.

Research from Psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky reports that when we're kind to another person, we feel more optimistic and positive. In addition to fostering feel-good emotions, kindness and empathy toward others is actually good for our health.

Stephen Post, president of the Institute of Research on Unlimited Love, reports that when giving to others starts at a young age, self-realization and physical health is significantly improved. Instilling kindness into the children starts by adults investing the time to help improve, enrich and nurture attitudes of empathy across younger generations.

What Messages Are We Sending?

New research shows that parents valuing achievement and happiness over empathy and caring. In fact, the Atlantic reports the majority of teachers, administrators and school staff do not see parents prioritizing caring for others in child-raising.

However, there seems to be a disconnect between what parents are telling their children and what they expect in terms of empathy:

  • A whopping 96 percent of parents say they want to raise ethical, caring children and cite moral development as essential.
  • Nearly 80 percent of school adults viewed parents as prioritizing their children's achievement above caring and a similar percentage viewed parents as prioritizing happiness over caring. (Harvard.edu)

Parents: Do you want to teach your kids about kindness? Have them submit their act of kindness to win Kid Kindness Day. Link

Luckily parents aren't the only people who can encourage kids to have empathy. Teachers have an opportunity to play a significant role in instilling this trait in children as well.

Several children\'s hands united together in a stack.

Kindness in the Classroom

Despite an ever-growing to-do list, teachers have a great opportunity to play an important role in instilling kindness in students. Not only do teachers and students spend a lot of time together, but kids begin shifting away from their innate kindness right around the age kids are entering school.

"Studies illustrate that kids' ability to feel for others affects their health, wealth and authentic happiness as well as their emotional, social, cognitive development and performance," explains Michele Borba, child psychologist. She continues:

"Empathy activates conscience and moral reasoning, improves happiness, curbs bullying and aggression, enhances kindness and peer inclusiveness, reduces prejudice and racism, promotes heroism and moral courage and boosts relationship satisfaction."

Teachers are Role Models

A new study indicates that, especially in early elementary years, students perceive teachers as kind individuals and are attentive to kindness acts modeled by teachers. This study, conducted by the University of British Columbia, asked 650 elementary students grades kindergarten through third grade to illustrate kind acts they themselves performed and ones they witnessed their teachers performing.

The common theme across both drawings was helping others, an accessible act of kindness that does not require any materials — typically only time and effort.

Kindness in the Community

"Empathy is a key ingredient of resilience, the foundation to trust, the benchmark of humanity and core to everything that makes a society civilized."

Kindness breeds kindness so it's especially important to help pass it on in our communities. Luckily, adult and children's first instinct is to help others, according to David Rand, Harvard University researcher, making it easier to instill in your community.

For youth, finding service projects that are both enjoyable and freely chosen can be challenging. An act of kindness however, that benefits another person or group of people, may interest the more and be more beneficial than traditional community service projects.

Kid Kindness Entrepreneurs

Its no secret that innovative entrepreneurs are making the world a better place and now kids are taking their place at the table as well. Kids have crazy, yet pure ideas that haven't been limited by the perspective of others — a great foundation for entrepreneurship.

In fact, many students in the U.S. have those aspirations, according to a Gallup Student Poll of kids in grades 5 through 12. Entrepreneurial traits of persistence and willing to assume risk were common themes across the responses:

  • 77% say they want to be their own boss
  • 42% say they will invest in something that changes the world
  • 91% agree they are not afraid to take risks even if they might fail
  • 85% agree they never give up

Smiling child with supporting parent.

Some young entrepreneurs are already well on their way to changing the world for the better. These three saw the need for kindness, made big plans, and turned their dreams into reality: