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Thread: NY Times Article: Teaching Children to Do Good

  1. #1

    Default NY Times Article: Teaching Children to Do Good

    Interesting article about parents' over attention to "happiness" and self-esteem and lesser attention to doing good and being moral.

    Some excerpts:

    When we prioritize our children’s moment-to-moment happiness over their attention to others, we also rob children of the skills they need to be good friends, romantic partners, colleagues, parents, and grandparents. Yet these gratifying relationships are commonly the strongest and most durable sources of happiness. Instead, children often become preoccupied with their own feelings and less able to tune in to or organize themselves around others.

    When it comes to developing our children’s morality, there are no shortcuts or bargains. We can’t expect morality to magically spring from self-esteem. We need to intentionally cultivate it in our children day to day.
    We not only need to keep in check the subtle ways we prioritize happiness, we also need to explicitly emphasize goodness. We can push children to care about others even when it’s not comfortable. Rather than telling our children that the most important thing is that they are happy, we can tell them the most important thing is that they are kind. As the novelist Henry James put it: “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.”

    What could matter most, though, is a fundamental shift in the goal of our child raising. Rather than making happiness the goal, what if we focused on our children’s maturity? Maturity includes managing destructive feelings such as envy, arrogance and anger, taking others’ perspectives and balancing our needs with those of others. It includes the ability to be self-observing and self-critical and to respond effectively to constructive feedback. These capacities help us to appreciate others despite conflicting interests, to care for others effectively and to live by important principles. These capacities enable us to be productive at work and to develop sturdy, meaningful relationships.

    We ought to focus on cultivating these skills in children because they will be happier. But more importantly, we ought to nurture these qualities in our kids to help them become strong, caring adults, able to create a better and more just world.
    Mom to two little girls (born 6/08 and 2/11) and another on the way.

  2. #2


    Thanks for sharing. I like that a lot.
    -- mom to DD1 1/98 and DD2 10/09

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2007


    I don't have time to read it now but definitely will. Thanks for posting!
    Thing 1 (8), Thing 2 (5), Thing 3 (2)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2009


    DD's previous teacher used to say that empathy is not something that is innate to little kids, so they must be taught to be mindful, caring, and thoughtful. We try to help DD understand where others are coming from, and to put herself in their shoes.

  5. #5
    3andMe's Avatar
    3andMe is offline Every day is a gift. It's just... does it have to be a pair of socks? Hopelessly Devoted
    Join Date
    Mar 2006


    Great article.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2008


    Excellent article. Thanks for sharing!

  7. #7


    Thanks for posting this!

    We try with the kids to instill in them the importance of doing nice things for others....and how good that makes us feel and how nice it is.
    We often box of old toys and ask them if we should give them to kids who don't have any...and the trio are very happy to do it. When we chopped all of Hayden's hair off, we asked her if she wanted to give it to a little girl who needs hair...and she was happy to do it.
    As soon as they get a little older I think we will do more volunteer stuff and see where else we can help, I think it is very important...for all of us.

    ~*~Katrina~*~ Momma to Xander, Hayden & Lily (6) and Jericho (3 1/2)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2011


    Great article, thanks for sharing!

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