A discussion we had in a parenting forum a few weeks ago has had me thinking about the message I’m sending my boys. Here’s the statistic that has been on my mind since the discussion:
About 80% of the youth in our survey report that their parents are more concerned about achievement or happiness than caring for others.
— Making Caring Common Executive Summary, Harvard University.
Like many parents, my greatest wish for my boys is that they be kind, caring members of society. Clearly, there is a big disconnect here. When I sat back and thought about this gap in our expectations, it’s not hard to see where it comes from. We are constantly shuttling our kids from one activity to another, working on homework, practicing any myriad of skills whether it’s a musical instrument or an academic skill. But how much time do we spend focusing on doing community service activities or other initiatives that demonstrate our caring and concern for others? How often do we talk about it with our kids (usually only when they’ve done something wrong!)?
I’ll admit that I have A LOT of work to do to bridge the gap with my kids. I’m lucky that their Sunday school’s curriculum is centered around caring for others and being empathetic, and I’ve used their ideas and lessons as a jumping off point for discussing how to be kind with my children. We discuss real-life situations and role play, and I’m making it more of a priority in our daily life. Here are a few other tips that might help you on your own quest to raising caring children:
- Model the same behavior you are asking from your children. This can be hard for some of us, but we need to lead by example!
- Seek out opportunities for you and your children to participate in activities that demonstrate caring and concern for others. Find out where you can help in your community– your church, school, community center, food bank?
- Help your child learn about their own emotions– how to name them, how to express them in a safe way, etc. Children who are able to deal with their own emotions can better understand those of others.
- Read stories about caring and showing concern for others. Some children learn better through reading about a subject as opposed to discussing it. Similar to role-playing, it can be easier for them to visualize what caring, concern, and empathy look like by reading about an individual who embodies those traits or a story that reflects them.