Hey guys! So last week we talked about how to raise creative thinkers & discussed some of the techniques parents are using that sound good on paper but produce the opposite result. If you haven’t read last week’s article, How To Raise Creative Free-Thinkers, feel free to click that link to be taken right to it. This week we’re talking about possibly the most important, valuable qualities a person can possess that are also among the most difficult to teach: Caring & Kindness.
I don’t know how many of you have heard this, but I’ve heard a few times over the years that up to a certain age, many kids can seem like sociopaths who lack any empathy for others. This Psychology Today Article says that since a child’s emotional & cognitive development have yet to be completed, they can’t be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder–the diagnostic term used by the psychiatric community to describe what society refers to as sociopathy–until at least the age of age 18. So while kids may seem selfish & uncaring in some situations, it’s important to remember that their personality, emotional intelligence, ability to understand the relationship between action & consequence, & ability to empathize aren’t fully formed yet.
Despite that though, experts still recommend beginning to teach the value of kindness, caring, generosity & empathy as early as 2-years-old because the deeper these ideas go into the foundation of their upbringing, the more they’ll be a part of who they are at their core. But how exactly does someone teach kindness? How could we possibly give a child that young any real sense of why caring is so important? Is it even possible to get a 2 or 3-year-old to sit still & focus long enough to understand the value of self-sacrifice? Luckily, you don’t need to know the answers to those questions because the experts are already on it! Let’s see what they think we can do to ensure we’re raising a child with a heart of gold!
One of the biggest & most common criticisms I hear about young people is that technology makes them ungrateful, always chasing the next best thing & too busy obsessing over the features of the newest model to appreciate the things they already have. These days, technology evolves so fast that everything they have always seems old to them. Personally, I think most people care more about the social status & novelty than the actual usefulness because who actually needs a phone that unlocks when you look at it? Was pushing a button that much of an inconvenience?
That’s why they obsess over these things. But now we also know that gratitude isn’t just a matter of good manners, it also has an effect on mental health, mindset, & attitude toward or outlook on life. If you frame every situation by focusing on what you don’t have, everything’s going to suck. But if you see everything through the lens of why you’re lucky to have what you do, then lucky is how you’ll feel. If we teach kids to see it that way, they’ll appreciate what they have & what others do for them & realize how many people aren’t as lucky, which cultivates empathy.
One of the things you can do to help instill this idea in children of almost any age is to make a game of listing the things that they’re grateful for. Take turns listing things that you’re each grateful for & whoever can list the most things gets to pick the next meal or family movie or something else they’d enjoy. Walking them through listing the things they’re grateful for will make them more mindful of those things. After all, there must be a reason Buddhists believe desire is the cause of all sorrow, right?
Patience & Dedication
Another common complaint about young people today, & yet again, another side effect of technology, is their ever-shortening attention spans. In this age of entertainment on demand & instant gratification culture, many young people lack patience because they’ve never really needed it. This can cause them to place less value on putting in consistent effort over long periods of time for things they won’t benefit from immediately.
As we all know, many things in life require this kind of patience & dedication. Hard work now can pay off more in the future if you’re willing to stick with it & delay gratification for bigger rewards down the line. In fact, the Stanford marshmallow experiment illustrates the value of this skill. They put a marshmallow in front of kids around 4 or 5 & told them if they waited 15 minutes to eat it, they’d get a second. They later found, during follow-up studies, that a child’s ability to delay gratification was one of the best & most accurate predictors of future success.
We need to teach them that good things come to those who wait. They’ll be happier & more successful, plus they’ll learn how much it really takes to reach their dreams & appreciate what they have more because they had to work for it. You can try teaching this by telling them that they can play a game on your phone for 5 minutes now or if they wait an hour they can play for 10 minutes. Using examples like these gives them memories of real-world applications to draw on the next time they’re wondering whether or not waiting would be worth it.
As per usual, I found way too much information I agree with, way too much I didn’t agree with which made me realize what I thought would be better, & just in general talked too much on each topic. LOL. I’m hoping that you guys appreciate the level of detail I provide instead of thinking that I just ramble on. LOL. I don’t want this article to go on forever so I’m going to pick up right where we left off next week in Part 2 & we’ll get into some more things that can make it easier to raise kids who think about others & are just a net positive force in the world.
Until next time…