Making the world better by raising a caring childAug 20, 2021
The last decade has been transformational for many of us. We are a more accepting culture and have evolved beyond the era in which some human groups are superior than others. Yet, even in the most evolved societies, we see populations that continue their lack of tolerance for diversity. In adults, we continue to see issues of race, ethnicity, gender, and more create a politically divisive conversation. In children, we start to see those behaviors in the home or in the classroom, where some children impose their belief of superiority through bullying or other negative behavior.
Research in human development has shown that although children have seeds of compassion, empathy, and a caring disposition, these qualities are not always present in later years if they are not nurtured by adults. Full development of these seeds need modeling and practice, and it is up to teachers and parents to help children develop into caring and empathic individuals, who later will become citizens that contribute to making the world better.
In my psychology practice I have seen many children over the years. Their family backgrounds have been diverse, as I serve populations that are culturally and linguistically different. Each family has their own values and use their own experiential background to teach their children the aspects of live they would like to develop in them. Similarly, these children attend different types of schools, private or public, and the teaching of values in those settings varies according to the culture of the school and the culture of the classroom, led by each individual teacher and his or her own values and beliefs. What can we do as a society to teach children to be caring and compassionate, thus making the world better? We must teach children about gratitude and service.
Life is challenging and we may experience many difficulties. Perhaps we were not dealt easy cards and we must suffer through financial hardship, impaired health, disability, learning problems, and other difficulties that may put us at a disadvantage. Nonetheless, children can easily adjust to these challenges if we, as adults, teach them that the challenges make us strong and that they are steps into our purposeful life. We can be content in every challenging season in our lives, knowing that great things await as we overcome these challenges. When we look back, we can appreciate what we went through and extract all the learning that happened in the process. For all of that, we must be grateful. Even if we do not have everything we would like at this moment, we must be grateful for what we do have. Children pick up on this attitude early in their life and can learn to be grateful, instead of focusing of what they do not have. Help them appreciate nature, their house, their family, their friends, their school, their toys, and so many other priceless things they already have. Teaching gratitude is an antidote for having a life of entitlement, where children are demanding, misbehave more, and develop into adults that are unhappy and unfulfilled. Living life with gratitude translates to living happy lives.
Serving others is a privilege and children should learn early in life that they should care about the collective good and not just their own good. It is of no use if they learn to advance by leaving others behind. There are so many needs in our society and we should be mindful of those around us. I am not referring to supplying for the financial needs only, however noble. I am referring to establishing hope in others by giving our time and/or talent to serve them. By lending a hand to those who are less fortunate, children can understand these principles early in their live. How do we do this? Seeing family members and school role models volunteer in their community and providing hope is powerful. Spending one Saturday a month delivering food to food pantries, having children pull old toys and clothing so they can donate to those in need, volunteering in shelters and organizations that allow children so that they can have direct contact with those less fortunate. Even acts of kindness such as giving up your seat in the metro, opening the door for someone to go first, returning items that someone lost, or just offering a kind smile helps. In doing so, children will naturally develop empathy, compassion, and a caring heart.
Let’s all work together to make our world better by being committed to teaching our children about gratitude and service. Our world is better today compared to old times, but we still have much to do. Change starts within ourselves and in our immediate world. Collectively, we can build a better tomorrow.