The Harvard Graduate School of Education did a study gauging the perception kids have of their parents. 10,000 middle and high school youth from 33 districts were surveyed and were asked to rank what was most important to them: achieving at a high level, happiness (feeling good most of the time), or caring for others. Only 20% chose caring for others. The rest chose between achieving at a high level or happiness.

The report goes on to share that parents really do want their children to be kind but apparently this is not the message being passed down to kids. One youth stated “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.” This adds up because there's still many instances in our society where we reward kids for getting good grades in school but when it comes to displaying altruistic behavior there's just not the same affirmations.

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Which is not surprising to me. As I stated in a previous blog, we tend to minimize or define the merits of kindness as relevant or only worthy if it is done anonymously or without grandstanding. However. That simply encourages things like crime, gossip or bullying to come to the forefront instead. And we've emphasized the "American dream" of success into good grades and high expectations. This is where I disagree.

My number one goal in raising my children are for them to be kind first and foremost. I believe it is critical that we have generations that care about others. It's not to say they shouldn't have personal success and happiness. But I believe that if they care for others, these things simply fall into place so easily. If we care about each other - we all succeed. I also don't think we should be silent about kindness. I believe this is the one characteristic we need to be bold and share more about because if we do, it will overtake what's being constantly brought to the forefront.

What are your thoughts on this? Vote on the poll below.

The good news is we have an opportunity to cultivate change and create a healthier balance for our kids and society. The Harvard Graduate School of Education extensive report provides some insight:

The following guidelines can help shift the balance toward children and youth caring for others and help them become caring, ethical family members, workers, and citizens.


1. Children and youth need ongoing opportunities to practice caring and helpfulness, sometimes with guidance from adults. Children are not simply born good or bad and we should never give up on them. A good person is something one can always become; throughout life we can develop our capacities for caring and fairness as well as many other social, emotional, and ethical capacities. Learning to be caring and to lead an ethical life is like learning to play an instrument or hone a craft. Daily repetition—whether it’s helping a friend with homework, pitching in around the house, having a classroom job, or working on a project on homelessness—and increasing challenge make caring second nature and develop and hone youth’s caregiving capacities. With guidance from adults and practice, young people can also develop the skills and courage to know when and how to intervene in situations when they and others are imperiled. They can become effective “upstanders” or “first responders.”


2. Children and youth need to learn to zoom in, listening closely and attending to those in their immediate circle, and to zoom out, taking in the big picture and considering multiple perspectives. It is by zooming out and taking multiple perspectives, including the perspectives of those who are too often invisible (such as the new kid in class, someone who doesn’t speak their language, or the school custodian), that young people expand their circle of concern and become able to consider the justice of their communities and society.


3. Children and youth need strong moral role models. Being a role model doesn’t mean that we need to be perfect or have all the answers. It means grappling with our flaws, acknowledging our mistakes, listening to our children and students, and connecting our values to their ways of understanding the world. It means that we, too, need to continually practice and zoom in and out, cultivating our capacities for care, widening our circles of concern, and deepening our understanding of fairness and justice. 4. Children need to be guided in managing destructive feelings. Often the ability to care for others is overwhelmed by anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings. We need to teach children that all feelings are ok, but some ways of dealing with them are not helpful. Children need our help learning to cope with these feelings in productive ways.


Sooner or later, we will need to take on the large and fundamental problem of the messages that our society sends to our children about the definition of success and about what it means to be an ethical member of a community.



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