Five simple tips on raising good kids, according to Harvard psychologists

Louis Dor
Monday 03 July 2017 13:15
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Every generation complains that their youngers are less empathetic and well-mannered.

People are less likely to ask whether that starts with the parents.

A 2014 study released by a Harvard psychologist and the Making Caring Common project found that 80 per cent of young people said their parents were more concerned with their achievement or happiness than their disposition to others.

Richard Weissbourd, the psychologist in question, and his colleagues have come up with a few recommendations about how to raise children to be more caring and responsible.

He wrote:

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.

Here are the five strategies he recommends to parents:

1. Make empathy a priority

Children need to learn caring for others from a parental template. Part of this is holding children to high ethical expectations even if it makes them unhappy.

They need to learn to balance their needs with those of others, and to stand up for others.

2. Provide arenas to practice care

Children don't become empathetic without an opportunity to exhibit the trait.

It happens over days, weeks and years, not without practice.

Whether it's helping a friend with homework, helping clean the house or having a daily duty, empathy is a second nature skill that takes time to develop - so help it do so.

3. Expand the roster of people your child cares about

Children care about friends and family by instinct.

The everyman in the street takes a bit more practice.

You can help expand your children's concern for others by encouraging them to listen to others, consider viewpoints other than their own and consider their actions through the lens of how they can affect others.

For example, a child may think twice about littering if they picture the cleaner that has to gather their mess, rather than simply empty a receptacle.

4. Be a role model

If you preach what you don't practice, a child will correctly question why the rules apply to them but not yourself.

If you want your children to adhere to a certain standard of ethics, you better exhibit them yourself.

5. Encourage them to balance destructive emotions

Often our capacity to care for others is overwhelmed by a primary and destructive emotion, like anger or shame.

For example, letting someone else take the blame for their errors can be fuelled by shame of being seen to have made a mistake.

If you want your child to be the sort of person who owns up to mistakes, they need to be the sort of person that prioritises justice for others and the wellbeing of others, over their initial blushes.

HT Washington Post

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