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A Parent’s Capacity To Choose & Teach Kindness To Their Kids

kindness photoKindness, compassion and gratitude are three of the most impactful, least pharmacological interventions that guarantee a positive effect on our neurological functioning and emotions. We have an enormous breadth of research on how and why kindness has the capacity to not only positively alter the mood of others and also has a drastic impact on the person that initiates an act of kindness toward another. Practicing and teaching kindness can be one of the greatest gifts that parents can provide for their kids and the effects of those lessons go beyond the actual act of providing for others.  Engaging in an act of kindness can be one of the most selfishly satisfying acts a person could provide in that it increases dopamine levels, produces oxytocin, a hormone that aids in expanding blood vessels and lowering blood pressure and helps us feel more connected to not only the recipient of the kind act, but more connected to humankind in general.

So how does this fit into parenting?  Parents can both be the teacher and recipient of the benefits of kindness.  Not only do the receiver and giver of kindness benefit, parents and their kids who witness the act of kindness actually benefit as well, helping them experience similar effects and increasing their capacity to engage in acts of kindness too.  The prevalence of depression and anxiety in parents continues to increase where loneliness and isolation have become cultural norms rather than connectedness and kindness. Think acts and benefits of kindness are limited to parents? Adolescents, often mislabeled as self-serving in their thoughts and actions, are enormous beneficiaries when practicing kind acts, particularly with strangers. While the prevalence of depression and anxiety continues to increase with adolescents at a rate higher than any other age group, kindness has shown to decrease levels of depression while simultaneously increasing compassion for others as well as self-compassion. Even children’s programming such as Sesame Street has started showing the impact of kindness on kids of all ages.

kindness photoIs the Four Minute Kindness Challenge as simple as it sounds?   Absolutely! The call to action is simply finding a person and, in less than four minutes, providing one kind act that will benefit that person. Looking for some ideas to get started?

Call three contacts and tell them why they are important in your life

Secretly pass on a positive complement to a well-deserving colleague in the workplace

Walk down the street and say hello to 3 random people

Purchase a gift card for your postal worker and thank them for their work outside of a holiday season

Send a thank you note to the boss that fired you-you would not be where you are today without being fired

Place flowers in a public place with a note letting the person know you hope they have a great day

Find an old friend you haven’t contacted in more than a year and reconnect with them

Volunteer 60 minutes in an organization you would like to support

Looking for an ongoing act of kindness that matches a cause you would like to support. Try visiting for resources that can help match you and/or your kids’ interests to a group that needs support.


A Parent’s Capacity To Choose & Teach Kindness To Their Kids

Jim Holsomback

Jim Holsomback (MA; ABT) is the director of clinical outreach for McLean Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts and program director for Triad Adolescent Services, located in Lexington, Massachusetts. He has more than 20 years of experience working with adolescents and families struggling with anxiety, depression, substance use disorders and self-injury. Jim has a vast amount of experience teaching and supporting families struggling to identify ways to establish effective family systems as well as presenting in regional and national trainings and conferences on topics such as contingency management, digital and substance dependence and supporting parents of preteens and adolescents struggling with self-harm & suicidality.

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APA Reference
, . (2018). A Parent’s Capacity To Choose & Teach Kindness To Their Kids. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 25 May 2018
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