I came across this article in The Atlantic last week, and the title immediately caught my eye: “Stop Trying to Raise Successful Kids.”
Then I read the subtitle: “And start raising kind ones.”
The authors are certainly not opposed to children getting straight A’s or winning games, but they point out, very compellingly, how we grownups can easily get way too caught up in achievement and lose sight of the importance of teaching kindness, compassion and other social-emotional skills that are vital for children to learn and practice regularly. They cite research:
"If you survey American parents about what they want for their kids, more than 90 percent say one of their top priorities is that their children be caring. This makes sense: kindness and concern for others are held as moral virtues in nearly every society and every major religion. But when you ask children what their parents want for them, 81 percent say their parents value achievement and happiness over caring.”
Achievement and happiness are good, right? Of course. But not at the expense of encouraging children to practice kindness and helping others. These skills are CRITICALLY important, and can have major impact on children later in life:
“Quite a bit of evidence suggests that children who help others end up achieving more than those who don’t.
Boys who are rated as helpful by their kindergarten teacher earn more money 30 years later.
Middle-school students who help, cooperate, and share with their peers also excel—compared with unhelpful classmates, they get better grades and standardized-test scores.
The eighth graders with the greatest academic achievement, moreover, are not the ones who got the best marks five years earlier; they’re the ones who were rated most helpful by their third-grade classmates and teachers.
And middle schoolers who believe their parents value being helpful, respectful, and kind over excelling academically, attending a good college, and having a successful career perform better in school and are less likely to break rules.”
—Adam Grant & Allison Sweet Grant, “Stop Trying to Raise Successful Kids (and start raising kind ones),” in The Atlantic
Kindness, compassion, and helping others are skills, just like playing an instrument or throwing a ball. They need to taught, and they need to be practiced—and they're essential learning for our kids.