I talk a lot about kindness when I visit schools. In fact, it’s one of the central points I make when I present reACT to Bullying: the opposite of bullying is kindness. An easy way for kids to find a connection and promote kindness is through an idea called, “High-Five Friday.”
The Upsides of Kindness
On its own, kindness is a positive force. It uplifts spirits and makes burdens seem lighter. But performing acts of kindness not only impacts the receiver – it also brings numerous benefits to the giver.
In fact, a landmark study described the far-reaching effects that come from students performing acts of kindness. Not only to the recipients get a boost, the givers get something, too, including:
- Increased well-being
- More popularity and acceptance among peers
- Fewer bullying behaviors
- Higher academic achievement
Developing a “kindness muscle” in the upper elementary years has far-reaching effects for the duration of students’ educational careers. Students who practice acts of kindness in the tween years exhibit fewer bullying behaviors as they become teenagers. As a bully prevention speaker, this makes my job easier.
Students Taking the Lead
When I speak to a school, I’m always sure to clearly define what bullying is and isn’t. I also talk about what actions students can take in the face of bullying behavior. But I’m always looking to get out in front of bullying, to stop it before it starts. That’s why I talk about acts of kindness.
Typically, I explain that students can even take it a step further by carrying out regular acts of kindness. For some students, this isn’t a new idea. While presenting reACT to Bullying at a middle school recently, a hand shot up and a student excitedly said, “I know what that is!”
“What do you mean, buddy?” I questioned. His response was that for as long as he could remember, his parents promoted Fridays as “High-Five Friday.” The requirement was that all family members must give a high-five each Friday and pay someone a sincere compliment. That was it — simple.
I was intrigued. “Okay,” I quizzed him, “what did you do last Friday?” Without hesitation, he responded that as his family was checking out at a grocery store, an employee made all their items fit neatly into one bag. “So I told him he did a great job and gave him a high-five,” he said. And there it was — a repeated act of kindness exactly illustrating my point. In fact, this young man knew enough to look back at the grocery store clerk who just so happened to be wearing a big grin.
Putting High-Five Friday Into Practice
Giving a high five isn’t a new idea. Watch any sporting event, and you’ll see high fives flying both on the field and in the stands. Some teachers even make a production out of high-fiving students at the beginning of the day. A high five lets the other person know, “I see you.” Powerful stuff, especially if someone is struggling with something that day.
I thought this young man’s tradition of “High-Five Fridays” was a great one. When I asked him if I could do “High-Five Friday” from then on, he smiled and nodded. As luck would have it, I happened to be speaking at his middle school on a Friday. I bet you can guess who I gave my very first “High-Five Friday” to!