What kind of adults are we raising in America? A recent study by Harvard’s School of Education mentioned in a New York Times article asked 10,000 middle and high school kids which was most important to them: academic achievement, being happy, or caring for others. As you would expect only 22% said caring for others was most important.
Here is why it is alarming and why we must do better for our kids. If achievement is most important then when these students (my kids) are faced with a conflicting situation – do right or win, win will be selected each and every time and in most circumstances someone will be left in the dust.
There has to be a better way – we owe it to our kids (and society) to raise kind and compassionate children who want to pursue academic achievement together in harmony. But, like academic achievement, kindness must be taught (and it takes more than just one or two tries to get it right).
Here are 2 parenting tips you can use to help reverse this trend and begin teaching your kids about kindness.
- Model the behavior you want to see in your kids. From a very young age our kids are watching our actions and discerning how to act based largely NOT on what we say to them but rather how we behave ourselves. Show them what kindness is. Shovel the snow from the neighbor’s driveway, open the door for a stranger, and let someone go in front of you in the line at the grocery store.
- Give them opportunities to treat others with kindness. Have them babysit for the single mom for free or mow the lawn of the neighbor who just had a new child. Encourage them to sit next to the new kid in the cafeteria or invite them to the basketball game. At first they will resist, not because they don’t care but because it is new and a little awkward. Encourage and celebrate and it will become easier.
We must become as diligent in teaching character as we are in achievement if we want to raise kids with character. Let’s start today!