Acts of kindness are about treating people with respect, compassion, and care.
Demonstrating gratitude is an important value in most families, and it’s also a positive trait that can improve both personal and professional lives.
Research shows that people who regularly demonstrate random acts of kindness are better able to:
- Form strong relationships and social connections
- Experience increased peer acceptance
- Perform better in academic and professional settings, and
- Have better mental health
But what’s the best way to impress upon your teens the importance of being kind?
One way is to lead by example – let your teen see you performing acts of kindness. Another way is to encourage and support your teen in performing acts of kindness.
Take a look at some ways for teens to show random acts of kindness, and be sure to be practice on World Kindness Day this Wednesday, November 13th.
1. Give Compliments Freely
Compliments are a simple random act of kindness for teens – they’re free and accessible to everyone. They’re easy to give to anyone who looks like they need a little mood boost, or just because you feel like it.
Show your teen the value of an unexpected compliment by looking for reasons to compliment them. Don’t wait for a special occasion or a big achievement – tell your teen that you like their new shoes or praise them for remembering to take the trash out without prompting.
Take notice of your teen’s positive actions and affirmations on ordinary days when they’re just going about their normal routine.
When you talk to your teen about how they can spread kindness in the world, point out the value of a compliment or word of praise that seems to come out of the blue.
There’s always something that’s worthy of a compliment.
When they spot a classmate who seems lonely, complimenting that classmate’s hair or admiring their latest art project may be a way for them to spark a conversation, or at least brighten their day.
Remind your teen that when they shop at a store or eat at a restaurant, a customer compliment can improve the day of a cashier or server who’s having a rough day – and taking the time to share that compliment with a manager could even get the cashier or server a raise or bonus.
2. Look for Opportunities to be a Helper
There are many ways to help others in your community, and many of them are free and available in everyday situations, for example:
- Your teen can hold the door for someone coming behind them or offer their seat on the bus to someone who looks tired,
- They can offer to carry groceries for a neighbor or let someone who seems to be in a hurry go ahead of them in line at the store, or
- They can invite a classmate who’s sitting alone to sit with them at lunch or share a snack with someone who doesn’t have their own.
These small opportunities to be kind arise nearly every day. If your plans for the day involve leaving the house and interacting with other people, you’ll probably run into an opportunity to help someone in some small way.
The trick is keeping your eyes open for these little opportunities. Many people simply fail to see the neighbor struggling with heavy grocery bags or a classmate who never seems to have enough to eat.
If you make it a habit to look for these opportunities and act on them, your teen will learn by example to keep their eyes peeled for the chance to be a helper.
Encourage your teen to pay closer attention to their surroundings and the people around them – they may see opportunities for random acts of kindness that they’ve missed before if they’re making a conscious effort to see them.
And if they make that effort every day, eventually it will just become a habit.
3. Allow Others to be Kind to You
Many people feel uncomfortable accepting help or compliments. Your teen may be one of those people – teens especially often feel self-conscious about accepting unusual kindnesses.
But if your teen has been performing random acts of kindness themselves, they already know that it feels good to be kind to others and to see people responding to that kindness. And that’s a feeling that your teen should want to share.
They can share that feeling by allowing others to be kind to them and accepting kindness and compliments graciously.
Teens sometimes get into the habit of rejecting compliments – for instance, if someone tells them their hair looks nice, they may say “Oh, no it doesn’t, I’m having a bad hair day.”
Teens may do this because they genuinely don’t like their hair, or they may be doing it because they’re afraid of sounding egotistical or stuck-up. But responses like this can make the compliment-giver feel rejected.
Work with your teen on accepting compliments instead. A simple “thank you” is all that’s required.
The same thing applies when someone does something nice for your teen, like holding a door or offering to help carry something heavy. Accepting a kindness from someone else can also be a way of being kind.
Speaking of thank yous, teach your teenager to send thank you cards to people who have given them gifts, hosted them, or performed other acts of kindness for them, random or not.
Thank you cards are not as common as they once were, but it’s always nice to receive something in the mail that’s not a bill or an advertisement. And because many people no longer expect thank you cards, receiving one might be a random act of kindness for someone.
Not everyone can donate large amounts of money to charity, save someone from a burning building, or show kindness in some other dramatic fashion.
But the small, everyday kindnesses that don’t cost anything but time and attention can really matter more than you know.
Offering your bus seat to someone who looks tired may seem like a small thing to you or your teen, but to the person who got the chance to rest their feet, that may have been the nicest thing to happen to them that day, or even that week.
A youth subculture is a group that differentiates themselves from the main crowd around them.
The hippie movement of the 60’s, punks, goths, hipsters, skaters, gamers… all are examples of this culture.
It’s normal for teens to experiment with subcultures, but if your teen begins exhibiting signs of sleep deprivation, a drop in school performance, depression, anxiety, aggression or anger, then it’s important to have your teen speak with professionals.
Learning about the subculture your teen is involved in will help to be less judgmental about it. Ask questions about the culture, their friends, music, values, etc. to learn about the culture, even if you don’t agree with it.