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Kindness Is Contagious

Teach Your Children Well
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Perform Random Acts of Kindness continued...

"It gives kids a visual image of what they are doing to each other," Fried tells WebMD. "The purpose is to increase the put-ups and decrease the put-downs."

A second activity is called "Pass It On," in which a teacher provides a general overview of what kindness is, and then waits to observe a spontaneous act of kindness among the classmates. When the teacher witnesses such an act, she or he gives the kind child an object -- say, a red apple -- and tells the child that he or she is now a witness and must pass the apple on to whomever performs a similar act of kindness.

"The feedback we got was amazing," Fried says. "Kids wanted to be observed performing acts of kindness. They were overdosing on kindness."

Interested parents can purchase two volumes of guidebooks describing the program and its activities for $20. Write to the Stop Violence Coalition, 301 East Armour, Suite 440, Kansas City, MO 64111.

Will the program work and truly create an "epidemic" of kindness? Time will tell, but psychologists say that educational programs focusing exclusively on the dangers of certain behavior, without corresponding models of right behavior, are unlikely to succeed.

Peterson says such programs -- like anti-drug campaigns that admonish kids to "Just Say No" -- have been an "abysmal failure."

"It's clear that if you want your kids to be better kids, you can't just tell them what not to do, if you aren't giving them an alternative about what they should do," Peterson tells WebMD.

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