If the results of a project spearheaded by Harvard University called “Making Caring Common”, which is basically a survey that asked 10,000 middle and high school students what they think is most important to them, are to be believed, we parents really need to work harder to teach them eternal values, especially in this 21st century.
Low empathy among children in survey
According to an article by Dr. Laura Markham for Aha! Parenting, the Harvard poll found out that most of the kids surveyed, while valuing caring for others, do not really put it ahead of their own happiness or achieving their own goals. This may not necessarily be bad, but what should be a cause for concern for parents is that those who put their own happiness registered very low empathy scores. Worse, many of them believe their parents are more preoccupied with them achieving their goals than with who they really are.
If these results ring any alarm bells for you, one of the things you can do is explicitly teach them those eternal values, says Dr. Markham. She also said we should role model habits of happiness, that the deepest happiness comes from connecting with others. Impressing upon them that achievement and material possessions are just secondary will also help. You also need to go further than telling them how good it feels to help others. You should, in fact, give your child the chance to get the pleasure one derives from helping other people with their efforts or their own money and resources.
Personally, I have met my share of kids who really demonstrate a disturbing lack of concern for other people. I’m not going into detail, but to these kids, altruism seems to be a very alien concept. It’s our job as parents to teach—and show—our children that few things are better than actually caring for and helping other people.
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