It might seem obvious, but raising caring children takes effort from strong adult role models. Children look up to them to set a positive example. A study released by the Making Caring Common Project found some discouraging news: About 80 percent of kids in the study of 10, 000 middle and high school students said their parents were more concerned with their achievements or happiness than whether they cared for others. The interviewees were also three times more likely to agree that “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”
Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist with the graduate school of education, and the Making Caring Common Project have come up with recommendations on how to raise children to become caring, respectful and responsible adults.
Bottom line: If we want our kids to be empathic and moral, we need to raise them that way.
“Children are not born simply good or bad, and we should never give up on them. They need adults who will help them become caring, respectful, and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood, ” the researchers wrote.
Five strategies for raising moral, caring children, according to Making Caring Common:
1. Make caring for others a priority. Children need to learn to balance their needs with the needs of others, whether it’s passing the ball to a teammate or deciding to stand up for a friend who is being bullied.
They also need to hear from parents that caring is a top priority. Hold children to high ethical expectations, such as honoring commitments, even if it makes them unhappy. Before kids quit a team or a friendship, we should ask them to consider their obligations and encourage them to work out problems.
Make sure older children address others respectfully, even when they’re tired, distracted, or angry.
2. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude. Studies show that people who are in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate, and forgiving. They’re also more likely to be happy and healthy.
Daily repetition — whether it’s helping a friend with homework, pitching in around the house, or having a classroom job — make caring second nature. Make gratitude a daily ritual at dinnertime, bedtime, in the car, or on the subway.
3. Expand your child’s circle of concern. Almost all kids care about a small circle of family and friends. The challenge is to help children learn to care about someone outside that circle, such as the new kid in class or someone who lives in a distant country.
Make sure your children are friendly and grateful with all the people in their daily lives, such as a bus driver or a waitress. Encourage children to care for those who are vulnerable. Use a newspaper or TV story to encourage your child to think about hardships faced by children in another country.
4. Be a strong moral role model and mentor. Children learn ethical values by watching the actions of adults they respect. They also learn values by thinking through ethical dilemmas with adults. Being a moral role model and mentor means that we need to practice honesty, fairness, and caring ourselves. But it doesn’t mean being perfect all the time.
For children to respect and trust us, we need to acknowledge our mistakes and flaws. We also need to respect their thinking and listen to their perspectives. Ask your child about dilemmas they’ve faced.
5. Guide children 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 okay, but some ways of dealing with them are not helpful. Children need our help learning to cope with these feelings in productive ways. For instance, one way to teach your kids to calm down is to ask your child to stop, take a deep breath and exhale, and count to five.
To read the full article, visit: washingtonpost.com
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