Here is a nice thought: What if kids were taught kindness and empathy along with traditional academic skills? For 12 weeks, a Wisconsin public school district tried it out on a group of preschool kids, reports University of Wisconsin-Madison psychologist Lisa Flook in Developmental Psychology. At the end of the course, the children who’d taken the “kindness curriculum” scored better on tests designed to measure both social skills and attention; these kids also received higher grades on their report cards than their peers who hadn’t taken part in the curriculum.
The press release accompanying Flook’s article describes the course this way:
The team developed a curriculum to help children between the ages of 4 and 6 years learn how to be more aware of themselves and others through practices that encourage them to bring mindful attention to present moment experience. These practices, the researchers hypothesized, could enhance the children’s self-regulation skills — such as emotional control and the capacity to pay attention — and influence the positive development of traits like impulse control and kindness.
For example, the kids were told to reflect on people in their lives whom they saw often but didn’t know well — like the school bus driver — and to think about how those people provided help to the kids. It’s an interesting idea, and one that may set these kids up for success later in life; after all, some emerging research is showing that it pays pays to be emotionally intelligent.