We’re Drowning Our Kids
A paper published by the Making Caring Common Project reports that 48% of the 10,000 students they surveyed ranked achievement as their top priority, 30% ranked happiness as their top priority, and only 22% ranked caring as their top priority. A full 78% ranked personal achievement or personal happiness above caring! In addition, 60% thought hard-work more important than kindness. Don’t get me wrong, achievement and hard work are important. But, do we want to raise a generation of people who place achievement and hard work above kindness and caring? Such a generation would agree with this statement taken from the study: “I’m prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.” Such a generation will exhibit less empathy, less willingness to help a person in need, and more willingness to cheat for the good grade or promotion. Even more disturbing, the youth in this study seemed to “value caring for others less as they aged.” The older the youth, the more likely they were to prioritize personal happiness above caring and achievement.
How has this happened? How have we created a generation more invested in personal happiness and achievement than in developing a kind and caring reputation? Parents and teachers want to raise a generation of kind caring youth; but, our message seems to have been lost in translation somehow. Perhaps our messages about happiness and achievement have “drowned out the messages about caring, ethical behavior. Instead of a steady stream of messages promoting kindness and caring, we are drowning our kids under a steady stream of messages promoting personal happiness and personal achievement. At times, we may communicate this message unknowingly or even with good intention. Nonetheless, we still drown out our children’s caring, ethical desires with words and actions like the following:
- Harassing the sport’s coach to get our children more play time.
- Campaigning for our children to get a larger role in the school play.
- Allowing our children to quit a team activity mid-season without considering their obligation to the team or drop out of an activity because they did not get the part they wanted.
- Not encouraging our children to reach out to the friendless child, the oddball, or the outcast at school.
- Allowing our children to talk too much, monopolizing conversation with peers and adults.
- Allowing our children to “fudge” on the community service experiences they list on their college applications.
- Writing too much of a child’s paper or doing too much of their project.
We could add more to the list, but you get the idea. Our actions often communicate a higher priority on achievement and personal happiness and less of a priority on kindness, thinking about the other person, and caring. If we want to raise a generation of caring, ethical youth, we need to “tweak” the messages we communicate. We need to assure our words and actions reveal a priority of kindness and caring. We need to let our children know one reason we work hard is to gain the resources to help others, including them. We need to communicate, through our words and actions, that kindness, not simply achievement, results in happiness and the greatest achievement is found in connecting with others through caring. We need to accept that parenting is a “moral task…” and it is high time we take that task seriously!