I had lunch today with writer Lisa Bendall, who writes regularly for us at Best Health and for Reader’s Digest. In the midst of chatting about our kids and careers her article on doing good deeds for 50 days came up (it appeared as the cover story in the December 2009 issue of RD). In it she chronicles her quest to do something for someone else for 50 days straight. I was so impressed (while also feeling incredibly selfish for not doing even one good deed this week). I asked her what sparked the idea and she said it was reading about people doing things like eating green for one year as well as seeing the 2009 movie Julie & Julia, where a writer cooked from Julia Child’s cookbook for 365 days straight.
Lisa wanted to take up a similar challenge. By choosing to do good deeds, she also thought it was a great way to teach her daughter the value of doing them. She recalls cringing when, before she took up the challenge, she opened the door for an elderly lady at a store and her daughter asked, ‘Mom, why did you do that?’ Lisa realized that this wasn’t second nature for her daughter. We agreed that it really is something kids have to see and do to learn, no one can describe how good you feel when you do something kind for someone else. And a 2005 study from Japan showed that doing good deeds make you happier and a 2010 study found that being kind is contagious. There’s even a Random Acts of Kindness Foundation based in the U.S. and schools have picked up on the benefits, too. At my sons’ schools there are monthly awards for kids who are caught being kind to other kids.
Lisa’s good deeds included everything from holding a door to mowing her neighbour’s lawn on the sly (her neighbour eventually found out’no doubt inspiring them to do something for someone else). As a result of her good works, it’s now second nature for her daughter to help someone. Lisa shared how the experiment has been a growing experience both as a person and as a parent. Her daughter now performs her own acts of kindness regularly and she doesn’t need to ask why she should do it anymore.
How do you teach your kids to do good deeds?
Jen Walker knows how challenging it can be to keep a family (and herself!) healthy’she’s raising three boys and working full time as our senior content editor. How does she do it? Follow her family stories here every Thursday to find out.