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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kindness Is Contagious is an engaging, feel-good documentary that compiles research, statistics, anecdotes, and theories about the effect of good deeds, featuring the author of the book-turned-film Pay it Forward, Catherine Ryan Hyde. Studies are woven throughout snippets from interview subjects from all walks of life, who recount the nicest thing anyone did for them, while various experts weigh in on why being nice pays off. It has strongly positive messages for all ages, but the talk-heavy format, without a lot of bells and whistles, may not engage very young kids.
What's the story?
They say nice guys finish last, but KINDNESS IS CONTAGIOUS compiles research, anecdotes, and persuasive theories to argue that nice guys can and do finish first, if we can think of changing the world not as an intimidating, hopeless goal but a real and possible one if we each operate on an individual level of kindness.
Is it any good?
This documentary is not particularly slick or sexy; rather, it's a quiet, unassuming message that being a nice person benefits the individual, the community, and the world. But it's not only wishful thinking; studies show that altruism has benefits, and people prefer romantic partners who are nice, people who volunteer to help others live longer, and we put greater trust in people we believe to be genuinely nice. What's more, being kind at work leads to bigger pay raises and more promotions, and everyone is worse off when we follow narrow self-interest rather than simply taking a minute to help another person.
Though there isn't a lot visually here to make Kindness is Contagious sing, the biggest takeaway may be that kindness can be viral and that even the smallest acts of graciousness matter enormously. Some stories, such as the one about a music teacher whose neighbor loaned him a piano he desperately needed for his students, will not bowl you over, but they will remind you that little gestures mean a lot, especially when we all take those nice acts and pass them on to others. There are strong messages here for older kids with the attention span for the research and theories.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the nicest thing anyone did for them. How did it make you feel? What's the nicest thing you've done for someone else? What happened? Did Kindness Is Contagious make you want to be more kind? What are some ways to add more kindness to your life?
Do you agree that nice guys can finish first? Why, or why not?
- On DVD or streaming: September 22, 2015
- Cast: Catherine Ryan Hyde
- Director: David Gaz
- Studio: Docurama
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Science and Nature
- Character strengths: Compassion, Empathy, Gratitude, Integrity
- Run time: 75 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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