Raising A Moral Child

The New York Times had a great article last week on Raising a Moral Child, written by Adam Grant. I think it’s worth sharing and talking about because it seems like it is becoming an increasingly difficult task. Why is it that the more information and resources we have, the harder it is to ensure that our children are thoughtful and hard working?

Before reading the article, I was under the impression that it’s more important to compliment the behavior of the child than the character of the child. Research is showing the opposite, however. So next time, instead of saying, “thank you for helping,” say, “thank you for being such a good helper” and you might find your kids repeating their kind actions more often.

Happy to Help!

Happy to Help!

Another important point the article brings up is that guilt is different than shame. Grant says, “Shame is the feeling that I am a bad person, whereas guilt is the feeling that I have done a bad thing.” Guilt is a feeling that can be changed by changing your behavior, but shame runs so deep you can’t get past it. None of us want our children to feel like they are bad people, so instead of expressing anger or withholding affection when they misbehave, it’s better to voice our disappointment and explain, “why the behavior was wrong, how it affected others, and how they can rectify the situation”.

Grant also points out that the old tenant, “do as I say, not as I do” is as ineffective as ever. Research proves this. He cites an experiment in which school kids earn tokens for winning a game and have the opportunity to donate some of the tokens to a child in poverty. The children most likely to give, and who gave the most even weeks later, were those that watched their teacher give tokens to a child in poverty without saying anything about it. You might think that the students who not only saw their teacher give, but heard her lecture about giving might be the most generous, but this wasn’t the case. Kids who only witnessed the generosity, and weren’t preached to about it, were more likely to be generous months later.

I thought Grant’s article was so interesting, I might have to pick up his book, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success In the meantime, I’m going to make sure I praise Franci’s character and lead by example, instead of merely lecturing about good behavior.

What are you doing to make sure your kids grow up to be kind, thoughtful and helpful? What methods do you find to be most successful?

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