Are we raising caring kids?


As parents we like to think we are teaching our children the right values in life but maybe that isn’t the case at all.

A new study by Harvard’s Making Caring Common Project has revealed that youth “appear to be more focused on success than concern for others” and that the way we are parenting is to blame for this trend.

While the study found 96% of parents believe “moral character is important”, 81% of kids thought their parents put “happiness and achievement as their top priority”.

The youth interviewed for this study noted important values such as happiness, working hard, and achievement and continually placed self-interest over values aligned with being kind such as fairness and caring for others. Only 20% of youth picked ‘caring for others’ as a top priority.

Is success more important than being kind?Via: iStock

When presented with the statement, "My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school", the youth were 3 times more like to agree than disagree.

The values these children placed as important, such as happiness and achievement, don't seem overly harmless but they found that a lack of prioritisation of being caring and exhibiting fairness put our children at greater risk of different forms of harmful behaviour, these include being: cruel, disrespectful and dishonest.

The study also found that:


Any healthy civil society also depends on adults who are committed to their communities and who, at pivotal times, will put the common good before their own. We don’t seem to be preparing large numbers of youth to create this society.

The Harvard group believe that it is the messages we send as parents that is the heart of this problem. Parents are trying to enforce these values but apparently our kids "aren't buying it" and the kids think we would prefer them to succeed than to be nice.

While the study isn't undermining our current parenting techniques it does put light on the fact that most of us, myself included, are guilty of saying one thing and doing another.

I try to place emphasis on being a kind and caring person but when my son won an end of term award last week my partner and I took photos and continually praised his efforts. When the same child regularly shares his toys with his brother or shows his soccer team mates compassion, we do acknowledge it but definitely not with the same enthusiasm.

As parent we're always trying our best and if we manage to raise kids are happy, well rounded and respectful people then I think we've all done a great job.

The Making Caring Common Project have released this summary of their findings:

Source: Harvard's Making Caring Common Project 

How do you teach your children to be kind and caring individuals?

Want more? Try:

20 super-simple ways to be kind to your kids.

“It’s taken eight years for me to stop feeling like a bad mother.”