Teach Children to Value Compassion Over Perseverance
If you watched the defeat Coco Gauff in the third round of the US Open on Saturday, most likely you do not remember the account or many details of the match; you mostly remember how Naomi Osaka consoled a 15-year-old girl after her defeat.
And if you are Osaka’s parent, you should take more pride in her kindness and compassion than in the great victory she has earned. Just two days before the sweet moment between athletes, writer Anna Nordberg wrote for the Washington Post that parents place too much emphasis on developing tenacity or perseverance in their children and not enough on developing conscious qualities.
Clinical psychologist Lisa Damour says to Nordberg that what actually makes adults happy hardly correlates with academic or professional success:
It really has to do with the quality of the relationship, commitment, and the feeling that you are good at what you do. “If you go back to see what you can do as a parent, it’s raising conscious children,” Damour says. “When you are conscientious, you tend to have better relationships, you care, you are not dishonest, and you pursue what matters to you.”
Maybe this seems obvious. Of course, we want our children to be good people. Of course, we want them to be empathetic, kind and caring. We want our kids to work hard on their goals – even when things get tricky – but we don’t want them to be the kind of person who is more focused on their personal success than on the feelings of others.
But obviously we’re not doing a good job of getting that message across to our kids, at least according to a 2014 study detailed in The Atlantic :
While 96 percent of parents say they want to raise ethical, nurturing children, and describe moral development as “very important, if not essential,” 80 percent of young people surveyed reported that their parents were “more concerned with achievement or happiness. than caring for others. ” A similar percentage reported that their teachers prioritized student performance over caring. The students surveyed were three times more likely to agree or disagree with the statement “My parents are proud if I get good grades in the classroom than if I am a caring member of the classroom and school community.”
So how can we not only value empathy, but also encourage it? Well, let’s start by modeling it . Children are more likely to act as we do, and not as we say. Have them watch you shovel the sidewalk for your elderly neighbor, volunteer at the local food bank, and buy gifts for families in need during the holidays. And when you notice that they are kind – praise, praise, praise.
But Nordberg also writes that we really need to create opportunities that “encourage empathy, cooperation, and kindness, rather than waiting for them to arise spontaneously.” We must foster compassion.
Involve older children in helping younger children, whether at home with siblings or at school as mentors or tutors. Engage them in your own problem-solving brainstorming sessions. Remove the kitchen counter and lay out the thank you card supplies so they actually write thank you notes. Look for times when you can encourage them to be kind, and they will develop those empathetic muscles and also realize the value you place on these characteristics.
And then, one day, your child may become a tennis star, consoling his opponent while the world watches and admires him.