Teaching Kids to Care

Being a parent is hard work! There are so many things to teach your kids and so many ways to do it. Teaching children the importance of caring for others can often be daunting, overwhelming or just plain difficult. How do you teach your children to care for others?

I recently came across this article citing Harvard research from the Raising Caring Children Project. The research examines how parents teach their kids about caring. Unfortunately, according to the article, “About 80 percent of the youth in the study said their parents were more concerned with their achievement 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.’” In response to the findings, the researchers came up with five recommendations for teaching kids to care. Here I list the five from the article with a key recommendation given for each:

1. Make caring for others a priority

• Instead of saying to your kids: “The most important thing is that you’re happy,” say “The most important thing is that you’re kind.”

2. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude

• Talk to your child about caring and uncaring acts they see on television and about acts of justice and injustice they might witness or hear about in the news.

3. Expand your child’s circle of concern.

• Make sure your children are friendly and grateful with all the people in their daily lives, such as a bus driver or a waitress.

4. Be a strong moral role model and mentor.

• Model caring for others by doing community service at least once a month. Even better, do this service with your child.

5. Guide children in managing destructive feelings

• Often the ability to care for others is overwhelmed by anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings.

Have you ever tried implementing any of these practices in your home? What things work for your kids? What things don’t work?