The declining kindness of our kids
Adam and Alison Grant say we need to stop trying to raise successful kids and start raising kind ones
Get ready to be surprised: our kids pay more attention to what we do than what we say. Who knew?
It turns out that while we say a lot to our kids about the importance of kindness, our actions betray a higher value on success and achievement. And our kids pick up on this.
Kids learn what’s important to adults not by listening to what we say, but by noticing what gets our attention. And in many developed societies, parents now pay more attention to individual achievement and happiness than anything else. However much we praise kindness and caring, we’re not actually showing our kids that we value these traits.
What’s the impact of this?
Well, it turns out that kindness is in decline.
Helping others is diminishing too.
And tough as this may be to hear, those of us who are parents carry some of the blame:
If society is fractured today, if we truly care less about one another, some of the blame lies with the values parents have elevated. In our own lives, we’ve observed many fellow parents becoming so focused on achievement that they fail to nurture kindness. They seem to regard their children’s accolades as a personal badge of honour—and their children’s failures as a negative reflection on their own parenting.
It’s not that success and achievement are bad. It’s perfectly normal to want these things for our children.
But we don’t need to do this at the expense of kindness and helping others:
Of course, we should encourage children to do their best and to take pride and joy in their accomplishments—but kindness doesn’t require sacrificing those things. The real test of parenting is not what your children achieve, but who they become and how they treat others. If you teach them to be kind, you’re not only setting your kids up for success. You’re setting up the kids around them, too.
The values we project to our kids will shape the people they become and therefore the world they will inhabit.
And I don’t know about you, but I want my kids to live in a world where people overflow with kindness and go out of their way to help each other.
We have to show our kids that that’s what we truly value though. And that it’s not a secondary value.