Caring to Care

Caring to Care

Submitted by Brooke Goldschmidt

From Chapter 10 – Prosocial Behavior


Prosocial behaviors are those that are positive and demonstrate the ability to think and act beyond the individual and their own needs. Students with prosocial behavior exhibit good morals, empathy and responsibility for others (Bergin & Bergin. 2012). Students exhibiting such behaviors are are not looking to gain personally, but are behaving in this in way in order to help someone or something outside of themselves. I think any adult, either teacher or parent, would agree that prosocial behavior is something that is extremely important and it should be a priority to instill this value in our children.

All humans are born with some innate ability to empathize or emotionally bond with other humans. As people grow older, their ability to demonstrate prosocial behaviors also increases. Teaching and demonstrating prosocial behavior to children should start and be promoted an early age because the behavior is more likely to continue on into primary grades (Hyson, 2011). The textbook explains that “The frequency of prosocial behavior does not appear to increase with age, but children’s competence at enacting prosocial behavior does improve with age.” Students become more aware of the behaviors as they get older and have the ability to choose the way they act.

Prosocial behaviors can predict many things, some of which include: happiness, popularity, more academic success and fewer discipline issues (Bergin & Bergin, 2012). Students who are able to positively demonstrate these behaviors are likely to be well-adjusted students and individuals. The natural rewards that come with positive behavior and the idea of putting others first, is typically guaranteed to yield positive results. While socially students benefit, they also benefit cognitively. According to a study conducted by Head Start (a program designed for children ages birth age five) a student’s ability to demonstrate prosocial competence can also predict other areas of strengths. The study showed a direct correlation between students with high assessments for prosocial competence and also being the most “cognitively ready” for school (Hyson, 2011).

There are also factors that can predict individual differences in prosocial behavior. These include: emotional competence, parental responsiveness, parental views, discipline reinforcement, and practice (Bergin & Bergin, 2012). Students are more likely to demonstrate these abilities if they have self-control and have emotional intelligence. The parental role and style of child rearing also influences these types of behaviors. A student with an uninvolved parent who is not responsive to their needs is not as likely to exhibit prosocial behaviors as a peer who has an authoritative parent who is warm and responsive. Children of warm and responsive parents typically are more likely to demonstrate these traits themselves (Fleischman & Kidron, 2008).

As adolescents move through school, they are also exposed to more opportunities to exhibit and demonstrate this behavior. Teachers should strive to create a classroom where students understand and actively demonstrate prosocial behaviors. Using victim-centered induction and asking students to put themselves in another person’s shoes is very common and effective way to promote build empathy and promote prosocial behavior. Teacher’s can also work on building students emotional competence by examining and reflecting on the emotions students feel at particular times. Exposing students to more situations that force them into moral reasoning and discussing these situations is another way to build prosocial behaviors. Teachers can also simply establish warm and caring relationships with students and model these types of behaviors as well (Bergin & Bergin, 2012). In the classroom, another easy way is to make a regular practice of using the “buddy system” in class. When checking homework, reviewing for a test, or having learning conversations, ask students to pair up and work with other students (Fleischman & Kidron, 2008).

Schools should also develop and implement strong character education programs into curriculum to promote prosocial behaviors as the norm of the school climate. These programs should be student-centered and avoid lectures by teachers and adults. The more student-centered the approach, the more effective these programs will be (McDaniel, 2009). Community service clubs, peer tutoring sessions, and community service opportunities are all ways that schools can help promote this positive behavior in all students and help students learn to care to care.


Bergin, C.C. & Bergin, D.A. (2012).  Child and Adolescent Development in Your Classroom.  Belmont, CA:  Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.

Hyson, M. (2011). Caring about Caring: National Association for the Education of Young Children. Retrieved October 19, 2013 from

Fleischman, Steve & Kidron, Yael (2008). Educational Leadership:Teaching the Tweens: Promoting Prosocial Behavior. ASCD. Vol 63(7). Retrieved October 18, 2013, from’_Prosocial_Behavior.aspx.

McDaniel, AK. “Character Education: Developing Effective Programs.” 2009. <>

Discussion Questions:

Do you believe students exhibit more prosocial behaviors in certain grades or periods of schooling? What have you noticed in your experiences?

Discuss a student that you have experience with who did not demonstrate prosocial behaviors. What steps did you take to help correct this behavior?

Discuss a student that you have experience with who was overly prosocial. What steps did you take to help correct this behavior?

What activities and opportunities do you plan in the classroom for students to exhibit prosocial behavior?

What types of clubs or activities does your school offer that help students exhibit prosocial behaviors?

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7 Responses to Caring to Care

  1. Michelle Peterson says:

    What activities and opportunities do you plan in the classroom for students to exhibit prosocial behavior?

    In my classroom there are a lot of opportunities for prosocial behavior. Students are always encouraged tocompliment and encourage others in day to day activities like playing games and partnering for academic tasks. On Friday’s of every week I allow my students to being in an item from home to share with their peers. Typically they bring a toy or electronic device. They are all very good at sharing most of the time. Occasionally I have to prompt but it is rarer. We talk often about standing up for others when they have been wronged. I have seen a significant increase this school year with my students standing up for peers.

    We have also been working on admitting mistakes. One way I encourage this is by admitting my own mistakes. Sometimes it may be that I do not spell a word correctly on the board or it may be that I forgot to send a note home. But I always make sure to point out mistakes I make so that I can show my students how to work through those moments when mistakes happen.

    The expectation in my classroom is always to behave politely and use good manners. We practice this during social skills instruction. My students have gotten to the point where they are now helping thier peers to use manners by reminding them politely.

  2. anonymous50 says:

    What activities and opportunities do you plan in the classroom for students to exhibit prosocial behavior?

    One strategy I devised in my classroom to promote prosocial behaviors and to facilitate a forum for discussing these was my “Compliments and Concerns” box. I provided pre-printed slips of paper, pink for ‘compliments’ and yellow for ‘concerns’. Each had spaces for required information: the subject (person/people) of the compliment/concern, where and when the notable incident/comment occurred, how the ‘reporter’ felt, the name of the reporter (my rule was that even positive comments are really just gossip if no one claims them), and room for describing the incident or event in detail. As a class, we discussed the ‘rules’ of using the box, which were pretty basic:
    o all comments had to be signed or they were disregarded (no gossip), but students had the option of requesting anonymity (which I absolutely guaranteed) for compliments or concerns (the only exception being comments that, by law, required intervention on an administrative level, and even then I kept the name of the reporter anonymous, if requested, and always discussed with them my obligation to make the report prior to doing so)
    o students could request a private discussion with me (to work out a resolution or solution, if necessary), or a group discussion, with or without reporter anonymity, if the comment was a ‘concern’
    o all valid ‘compliments’ (comments that reflected one of the school’s Core Virtues and generated positive feelings in the reporter or someone else) were read aloud, discussed/celebrated, and earned the recipient a trip to the candy jar, if he or she desired
    o there was no limit to the number of times an individual could use the box, compliment or concern

    The most important aspect of the Compliments and Concerns box was that it facilitated discussion and I found that the topics often translated into appropriate writing assignments that we could tie into thematic content from our literature, as well. This then generated a positive environment in which we could identify and celebrate the desirable prosocial behaviors, as well as providing a vehicle for addressing the less desirable antisocial behaviors

  3. Leslie says:

    What activities and opportunities do you plan in the classroom for students to exhibit prosocial behavior?

    Right now at my school, we are collecting food for our local food pantry. I have encouraged my students to donate and I have donated items myself to be an example for them. We also have a local women’s shelter that we often collect donations for throughout the year. I think this is a great way to teach the students to think about others. On a daily basis in my classroom, we work in groups for various activities. This gives students an opportunity to share and cooperate with others which are two prosocial qualities that I want to encourage. If there is an issue between some students, often I ask them to think about how the other person felt in the situation. This gets their mind thinking about other people and increases their empathy towards others. Our school has an outdoor classroom that has a trail, a pond, benches, an amphitheater, stage, etc. I take my classroom out there once a month to clean up trash, pull weeds, etc. to keep it in good shape for everyone to use. I think one of the most important things that can be done in a classroom to promote prosocial behavior is to model it every day in everything you do.

    • anonymous50 says:

      Agreed! I also make sure to participate in and provide opportunities for small and large ‘prosocial’ activities, in the school or in the community. I also like to share with my students opportunities to be involved in the “world community”. For instance, I have a son who volunteers with/works for a non-profit (ROMP — Range of Motion Project) that provides prosthetics for low-income people in third world countries in South and Central America, and a few years ago he did a 4,000 mile bike ride to raise money for one of their ‘clinics’ in Guatemala. Prior to that 70+ day event, he came into my class with his bike and told the students about what he was doing and why, sharing some stories and photos of real people he had met and helped. The students were completely captivated and inspired to come up with projects of their own (which they did). Many continue to be involved in philanthropic organizations now, into high school and college.

  4. Andrea says:

    What types of clubs or activities does your school offer that help students exhibit prosocial behaviors?
    This year the administration has provided two times a week a small block of time at the end of the day for students to be able to get help from teachers about academics, as well as having a large group of clubs/activities (ex. FCA, FCCLA, FFA, Science Olympiad, Math Club, Book Clubs, Fitness Club, etc) available for students participate during the school day. The goal is to provide more opportunities for students to get connected in school and develop a stronger sense of community. The clubs/activities are incentives for students to stay caught up with their classwork. Students have to take care of academics before they can participate in clubs/activities. An after school club that began last year (approximately 25 students) and has doubled in numbers this year is Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) . The leaders of HPA wanted to start it to provide an activity for students who may not have found a connection to the school community. This is an anti-bullying club where students are learning to be positive members of society. One of their initiatives was to paint the bathroom stalls and walls black to discourage students from writing profane and destructive messages. Another goal of HPA is for students to have opportunities to learn about needs in the community (as well as outside of the local community) and plan ways to help. They have sponsored book drives and have raised money for areas around the country that are rebounding from natural disasters.

  5. Jimmie Jo says:

    Discuss a student that you have experience with who did not demonstrate prosocial behaviors. What steps did you take to help correct this behavior?
    I have a student who has been not been demonstrating prosocial behaviors. At times, she is bossy and rude to her classmates. She often does not keep her hands to herself and picks on those students that she sees as weaker than herself. This year I have been working with her to help her to correct these behaviors by “trying again.” I often give her pep talks that seem to help for quite awhile. We have had lessons on tattling, self control, making friends, and taking responsibility for our actions. This little girl is incredibly intelligent and is far above my other first graders so I attributed it to her being “bored.” I am trying to make sure that she stays challenged and engaged in my classroom. Last evening at conferences I learned that she is behind socially because of an experience she had when she was younger. I thanked the mother for sharing the story with me because it gives me some insight into what this child is thinking and reacting to other students. I will definitely ask our counselor to start to counsel her one on one. I think that she needs the opportunity to practice how to react in different social situations. I would LOVE to hear other suggestions from teachers!

  6. Drew Ibendahl says:

    Do you believe students exhibit more prosocial behaviors in certain grades or periods of schooling? What have you noticed in your experiences?

    Having taught and/or coached students from first grade through high school freshmen, I have definitely seen differences in prosocial behaviors at different grade levels, but I have also witnessed many similarities. I have taught first graders who have that ability to empathize with their peers and understand when a classmate is upset and why that classmate is upset. On the other hand, I have taught many first graders who don’t quite seem to exhibit or understand the concept of empathy or display compassion. Looking back, it is apparent which students begin school having had that authoritative, caring parental style at home, modeling empathy and compassion. Likewise, I have taught fifth graders and junior high students who demonstrate a compassion for their classmates and others around them, but I have had a large number of students with that self-centered attitude, and an inability to to empathize with their peers. I feel as though the students I have worked with in upper grades tend to demonstrate more prosocial behaviors, but at all grade levels, there will be students who still have difficulty exhibiting these behaviors, and this was apparent to me when I coached high school girls softball for three years. Obviously, this was not a classroom setting, and being girls softball, the demographics were not those of a classroom, but I coached groups of girls who demonstrated that compassion for each other and for other teams we were playing. However, like other grade levels I worked with, there was always a small number of girls who had difficulty with this. I feel as though the biggest difference was also in the ways in which students who did not demonstrate prosocial behavior were viewed at different grade levels. I feel I have always done well at modeling empathy and compassion toward my students, but I know I had more patience and understanding with my younger students who did not/could not express prosocial behaviors than with older students, because I felt as though the older students have had experiences and “should know better.” Looking back, I realize those older students needed just as much if not more modeling and patience in teaching those behaviors. Unlike first graders, if junior high students and even high school students have not experienced modeling of these behaviors or have experienced compassion and empathy from others, I feel they are less likely to experience that in their schooling than would younger students. In turn, they will be much less likely to express these behaviors throughout the rest of their schooling and into adulthood.

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