New parents worry that they struggle to teach their children how to be caring individuals in a society marred by negative moral values, Quartz reported.
But researchers at Harvard may have some answers on what new parents can do to make sure their children care about other people.
In a recent report published by the Making Caring Common Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard researchers offered five tips to parents who want to raise their children to be caring, moral and empathic individuals.
“While caring and fairness are subordinated to achievement and happiness, they are still important to youth, their parents, and their teachers,” the report said.
Here are five tips based on Harvard’s research.
Children need activities to practice caring.
The researchers reported that children need to learn about caring every day of their lives and they need repetition.
“Learning to be caring and to lead an ethical life is like learning to play an instrument or hone a craft,” according to the report. “Daily repetition — whether it’s helping a friend with homework, pitching in around the house, having a classroom job, or working on a project on homelessness — and increasing challenge make caring second nature and develop and hone youth’s caregiving capacities.”
Children need to consider the small and big pictures.
Children should learn to “zoom in” — listen closely to people in their immediate circles — and “zoom out” — learn about bigger concepts — to help them become a more caring individual, according to Harvard. Understanding both the little and big pictures well help youngsters “expand their circle of concern and become able to consider the justice of their communities and society,” the report said.
Children need moral role models.
Role models can help children understand how to care about others, the research found. Children will follow the role models’ examples to help them.
“Being a role model doesn’t mean that we need to be perfect or have all the answers,” according to the report. “It means grappling with our flaws, acknowledging our mistakes, listening to our children and students, and connecting our values to their ways of understanding the world.”
Children have to know how to control emotion.
Sometimes people act out in anger, frustration or shame when people try to help them, according to the report. Children can avoid this issue by learning how to deal with their own emotions from an early age.
“We need to teach children that all feelings are OK, but some ways of dealing with them are not helpful. Children need our help learning to cope with these feelings in productive ways,” the report said.
Adults need to take responsibility.
Parents also need to understand it’s their responsibility to teach their children good values, according to the report, and not just wait for children to pick up on good values.
“To begin, we’ll have to stop passing the buck,” the report said. “While Americans worry a great deal about children’s moral state, no one seems to think that they’re part of the problem. As adults we all need to take a hard look at the messages we send to children and youth daily."