Creating a Culture of Kindness: How Might Schools Promote Childrenā€™s Prosocial Acts?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Sophie Smith
Submitted: March 2019

Childrenā€™s pro-social behaviour is related to their peer status. Peer acceptance is associated with wellbeing and achievement in school, yet evidence suggests that many children are not aware of this and may attribute peer status to more dominant or materialistic orientations. Therefore, it is important that schools not only promote childrenā€™s pro-sociality, but draw their attention to its value. Given that social and emotional learning (SEL) programs appear to facilitate more positive pupil outcomes than anti-bullying initiatives, positive psychology approaches which focus on building social and emotional skills can be considered useful. Encouraging children to perform kind acts for one another has recently gained research attention as a positive psychology intervention particularly beneficial for social relationships. Self-determination theory (SDT) suggests that enacting kindness may temper individualsā€™ psychological needs for competence, autonomy and relatedness. Currently however, there is little evidence-based guidance for schools on how to go about promoting childrenā€™s kindness. In this essay, relevant research is synthesised with the aim of bridging this gap. It is argued that adults can support childrenā€™s intrinsic motivation to enact kindness, in two key ways. One is by providing information about what kindness is and how it can be used. The other is by fostering experiences of the emotional motivations of gratitude and empathy. Methods to achieve this are described with consideration to the role of self-determination needs. Ideas for future research and the contribution of the educational psychologist are proposed.

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