Adding More Kindness to the World

A member of our community, Chanel Tsang, spoke to the Erin Mills Connects (EMC) Steering Committee in January about the unique work into childhood development at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM). Carol Reist, Executive Director of The Dam and a member of the committee, commended its research into kindness.


Why does kindness matter, you might wonder.

Dr. Tina malti

At the EMC Community Forum meeting last month. Drs. Tina Malti and Ruth Speidel spoke about the value of research into kindness to 45 parents/guardians, school officials, students, educators and other leaders. Kindness and empathy are linked to lower rates of aggression, anxiety, depression and stress, and more positive behaviours that engender peace, inclusion and civil society, research shows.

Dr. Malti has been researching developmental psychology for more than 20 years and has an impressive record of creating capacity to learn more about effective interventions to help promote child well-being. She is founding director the Laboratory of Social-Emotional Development and Intervention (SEDI), and the Centre for Child Development, Mental Health, and Policy (CCDMP), both at UTM.  Dr. Speidel, joined the SEDI Lab last year as a postdoctoral fellow, and her research focuses on self-regulation and evidence-based practices to support children and families.

Dr. Malti commented that researchers have recently found that infants can feel the same emotions as another person. Understanding and evaluating someone else’s perspective and feelings continue to develop in early and middle childhood, she adds.

Dr. Tina Malti explains that as children mature they demonstrate “healthy guilt” that allows them to repair relationships. This is part of Social-Emotional development.

Studies including one she co-authored that followed 1,273 children (ages 6 to 12) showed that improved empathy reduced aggression. Dr. Malti noted: “This is a very important finding because it means we–as educators and caregivers – as we promote empathy, children’s aggressive behaviour will naturally decline without even targeting the aggressive behaviour.”

A vital part of the work of Dr. Malti’s lab at UTM is turning this knowledge into practice and influencing policy to ensure that helpful measures are taken to encourage kindness and empathy. Dr. Speidel talked about Project RAISE, a collaboration with the Region of Peel, Child Development Resource Connection Peel, PLASP Child Care Services, Dixie Bloor Neighbourhood Centre, and EveryMind Mental Health Services (formerly Peel Children’s Centre/Nexus Youth Services).

Dr. Ruth Speidel describes how caregivers help develop Social-Emotional growth in children. The CCDMP is running a free online training program in the fall for caregivers about Social-Emotional development, early relationships, and growth, well-being and stress. Parents/guardians are welcome to apply by emailing raise.ccdmp@utoronto.ca

Judging by questions at the Community Forum, meeting participants were excited to hear about CCDMP’s pilot project to train caregivers of children between 3-8 years in Social-Emotional development over three weeks in the fall. The project is open to parents/guardians, caregivers, Early Years Educators in EarlyON Child and Family Centres or child care centres in Peel Region. Contact raise.ccdmp@utoronto.ca  or visit http://tinamalti.com/raise.html to learn more.


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