When it comes to raising children, how do you measure success? Do you look at their grades, their performance on the athletic field or how many awards they win? Those factors are easily measured and are often used as the standard for measuring success, but should they be?
What if kindness and caring was used to measure how successful a child was being raised?
Think about this for a second. Instead of being put under tons of pressure to get straight A’s, teach them how to care about others and show compassion. There is actually some scientific proof that finds that the kids who achieve the greatest success are not the ones who are pressured on grades or sports, but the ones who are taught kindness.
There was a Harvard study that that found that 80 percent of youth said their parents value achievement and happiness over caring for others. This means that you are teaching your kids to care more about themselves than others. That can lead to behavior like cheating, bullying or lying.
What Should You Do?
So what should you do to instill a sense of kindness and caring in your children? It really isn’t that difficult and it doesn’t take sitting them down and lecturing them about it. All it takes is turning their, and possibly your, view of things around a bit.
Let’s look at a typical family discussion at the dinner table. You would more than likely ask your children how their day was, or how the test was if they had one. Think about what this tends to do. It automatically gets them focused on grades or points or winning and losing. Instead, try to ask them who they helped today or how they made a difference today.
You may get some blank stares in the beginning. Don’t worry, this is normal because they aren’t used to thinking like this yet. You will probably get a few “I don’t know” answers. Keep asking these questions every day and be consistent. Eventually they will expect you to ask them and be prepared to answer them. They may actually look for ways to help others during the day just so they can answer your question.
Don’t Overemphasize Grades
If you are a parent that overemphasizes the importance of getting straight A’s or being perfect on homework assignments, there is scientific proof that the amount of money people earn in their careers is not tied to their grades in kindergarten. It was actually the students rated as “helpful” that made more money 30 years later.
But if you are still worried about grades, there are studies showing that middle school students who show signs of caring and kindness toward their peers actually get better grades and higher standardized test scores than their less kind and caring classmates.
Give Your Kids Identity
Children love to “be” something instead of “do” something. Come to think of it, this really isn’t specific to children. Everyone wants a sense of identity and to feel like they are something to someone. That’s why we need to try to value identity, not just accomplishments.
If your child does something nice for someone, praise them for being a good “helper” instead of “helping”. This will give them a sense of identity and still acknowledge their accomplishment.
As a matter of fact, experiments were done in preschools where toddlers were asked “Will you be a helper?” instead of “Will you help?”, and 22 to 29 percent were more likely to help.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
As a parent, you also have to understand that your influence on your children is only so strong. There are so many other factors involved when it comes to a person’s development. They have teachers, peers, social media, etc. to deal with.
Don’t beat yourself up if you see them stray from what you are trying to show them. It is human nature and biology.
With generosity comes balance. When people begin to act selfishly, they must be guided toward doing more for others. There has to be a sense of accountability for being kind and caring for others and your community. Leading by example is the best way to influence and change behavior in others.
Children are literally the future of this world and we need to show them that kindness and caring for others is essential for success in life.