I recently read a story and update on the Making Caring Common project at Harvard, which did a landmark study a couple of years ago assessing children’s perspectives on what is most important to them. The results are still rather amazing to me:
“During the Making Caring Common survey, the young participants ranked what was most important to them: achieving at a high level of happiness (feeling good most of the time), or caring for others. Almost 80% of youth picked high achievement or happiness as their top choice.”
I try hard to raise kind kids, and most of the time they are, although not as frequently to one another as I would like, I must admit. I think most of us would say the same. So is something getting lost in translation? Do we think our messaging is saying that kindness and empathy are important but the achievement message that seems to drive our society these days is just louder? It’s hard to know.
Regardless, what it does suggest, I think, is that we need to check in. We need to have those conversations. We need to do a gut check with our kids, and with ourselves.
“When we think about the kind of society and the kinds of communities that we want to live in, we need to be raising kids that can have empathy towards others and can act in kind and respectful ways.” — Luba Falk Feigenberg, Harvard.
The great thing about kids is that it’s never too late to double back or redirect. They are malleable. They have ample ability to adapt and change and grow (which incidentally is why exposing them to service at a young age can have such a profound impact). They are hard-wired for empathy. We just need to do the work and to stress its importance.
If we do that, the rest will take care of itself. (Oh yeah…and modeling the behavior is pretty important too!)