Harvard Researchers Say These Are The 7 Ways To Raise Caring Kids

Make caring common.

Parents strive to raise their kids to be the best they can be. They want their children to grow up safe and healthy, but they also want them to develop good, strong characteristics, such as being kind. And while there is no one handbook on the "right" way to raise a child, parents can look to studies and research to find the best ways to instill these important values.  

Harvard has released seven tips on how parents can raise their kids to be more caring. The university has previously shared tips for parents about redefining happiness, encouraging honesty, and cultivating empathy. Like those tips, the latest ones of how to raise caring children are backed by research.

The tips are especially important given that Harvard's research revealed 80 percent of the 10,000 youth surveyed stated that happiness or achievements were their top priorities, while only 20 percent picked kindness.

Here are seven tips on how you can raise kids to be more caring, according to research done at Harvard.


1. "Be a strong moral role model and mentor."

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Leading by example is an important thing to remember. When kids see you doing certain things, they will pick up on them and try to emulate them. The study encourages frequent self-reflection to ensure that you're practicing honesty, proper anger management, fairness, and dealing with emotions effectively.

It also points out that if you make a mistake, it is wise to acknowledge the mistake, and discuss how you went about fixing it.

2. "Make caring for others a priority and set high ethical expectations."

The study raises an important point that even though the majority of parents and guardians say that caring for others is their top priority, many kids don't actually hear this. Therefore, ensure that you're vocalizing it.

In addition to talking about kindness as a top priority, show your kids that you mean business by performing acts of kindness at home and in the community. 

3. "Expand your child's circle of concern."

People can get into the habit of only focusing on those who are immediately around them, such as friends and family. The study states that it's helpful for kids to see the bigger picture. Help little ones see beyond those immediately around them by opening up their eyes to the larger community and the world. Highlight that kindness should be extended to all people — to those like them and to those who are different. 

4. "Promote children's ability to be ethical thinkers and positive change-makers in their communities."

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Have you noticed your child is passionate about something? Look for ways they can get indulge in that passion while helping the community. If they love art, perhaps they can get involved in community mural painting. If they love reading, perhaps they can participate in a volunteer program reading to younger kids.

Even if you don't think your kid will like it, you might be surprised. The study states, "Children are naturally interested in ethical questions and grappling with these ethical questions can help them figure them out ... Children are also often interested in taking leadership roles to improve their communities."

5. "Help children develop self-control and manage feelings effectively."

Help little ones identity their different emotions and how they can deal with them, especially negative ones. In situations of conflict, try to encourage them to see the perspective of the other people involved. It's key because emotions, such as shame, envy, or anger, can often impact a person's ability to care.

6. "Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude."

Gratitude is an important part of being caring. In the Harvard study it says, "Studies show that people who engage in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate, and forgiving — and they're also more likely to be happy and healthy." 

Look for ways your kids can develop their skills by themselves, such as with chores or by getting involved in the community. Expressing gratitude after they perform their acts of kindness will hopefully leave a lasting impression.

7. "Work to develop caring, loving relationships with your kids."

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When you're with your kids, try to engage in meaningful conversations by asking more open-ended questions, along with praising their goals and accomplishments. In the study, it states this is important because "children learn caring and respect when they are treated that way." Therefore, when kids feel loved, they become attached to us, and that makes them more receptive to sharing their values.

In addition to providing parents with tips, Harvard is also encouraging them to get involved in the conversation with its "Make Caring Common" Facebook page. After all, sharing is caring.

Cover image via forsiba I Shutterstock

(H/T: Popsugar)


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