Have you heard of the Highlights State of the Kid Report?
Each year, Highlights interviews thousands of children ages 6-12, and each year, parents and educators learn exactly what children think and feel about important topics.
In the 2017 SOTK report, the findings centered on kindness, caring, and empathy. These are totally hot topics right now, and they should be.
Like each one of us, the great folks at Highlights has been witnessing unkind encounters play out in almost every aspect of daily life. So they wondered: how much of this are kids seeing—and how is it influencing their thinking about how we talk to and behave toward one another?
They asked kids—the world’s most important people the following questions:
- What messages are they hearing from their parents and the other adults in their lives about the importance of kindness?
- Are they hearing that adults value caring behaviors?
- Do kids witness their parents or other adults behaving rudely, and, if so, h
ow does it make them feel? Does our next generation understand what it means to be empathetic?
Aren’t these incredibly powerful questions? I thought so.
And they jive seamlessly with the release of this report on World Kindness Day. I love it!
Here’s the skinny. . .
Highlights State of the Kid Report, 2017:
I’m thrilled to share with you some of the big takeaways from this report:
1.) Parents think they are teaching kindness, but kids are getting a different message.
When asked if they felt their parents wanted them to be kind, be happy, or do well in school, kindness ranked last. Making Caring Common, a project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, asked this question to middle and high school students nationally, and the results of their survey are similar to our findings with younger children.
2.) Actions are caught: Kids notice and are impacted when adults act unkindly, and it influences how they process feelings and manage conflict.
3.) Kids have a basic understanding of empathy, creating natural conversation opportunities for adults to reinforce empathetic behavior into adolescence and beyond, even in difficult situations.
4.) When asked what one thing they would change in the world, nearly half of kids answered they want a kinder world.
Important discoveries, right? I think so–especially the first one, that children are getting a different message than most parents want them to get.
But now what?
Here are some of the big action items from the 2017 report. Here’s what parents can do with this information:
Talk About Kindess
- When you act unkindly and your kids witness it, circle back and have a conversation with them about it. Explain your feelings at the moment, how you reflected on your mistake, and made amends. This will go a long way in helping kids understand that we are not perfect, nor do we expect perfection from them.
- Use everyday moments to teach a kindness lesson. For instance, in addition to asking your kids about their day when they come home from school or at dinner, ask them if they did something kind today. Or did someone do something kind for them?
- Use mealtime conversations to highlight your family values. Perhaps similar to a company’s mission and values statement, you could come up with a list of family values and priorities and display it in a common space at home. Let your children know that qualities such as hard work, kindness, tolerance, and honesty are valued in your home.
Model Conflict Resolution
- Help your child understand that conflict is part of everyday life. Point out conflicts on a television show or at the grocery store and talk about how the situations were resolved. Remind kids of times at home when your family members had differences of opinion, say, whether to go biking or hiking on the weekend, and how you reached a satisfying conclusion.
- Talk about how resolving conflict does not mean that we will all agree in the end. It means we are coming to an understanding of each other’s feelings and respecting them. Listening to another’s point of view is important.
Think About the Perspective of Others
- Acknowledge that it’s not always easy to be kind, that sometimes issues raise feelings in us that aren’t pleasant. But it’s important to think about the other person’s perspective and experiences and then, together, come up with strategies on the best ways to help, whether it’s joining a group that does service work around that issue, such as disaster relief, or writing a letter to an elected official to advocate on behalf of that issue.
- Use literature, movies, even games to show your children how other people live. This way, they can begin to understand feelings of empathy for others.
Is Honesty Always the Best Policy?
- Remind your kids that the “truth” is often subjective. Point out that whether or not they like someone’s outfit or haircut is really a matter of opinion. Tell them to think first about the statement they’ll make and how it may impact the recipient.
- Let your kids know there are lots of ways to be kind and not lie. Talk through different scenarios with your kids and show them that the way you respond—your approach, your tone of voice, and your willingness to listen—can make a difference. Equip them with language and strategies.
Accentuate the Positive
- Find ways to focus on happiness or boost happiness through gratitude. Recognizing and being thankful for what we have and feeling good about it is one way. Have children keep a gratitude journal. At dinneror before bedtime, ask your child to share one thing he was thankful for that day.
- Whenever possible, point out people in the world—your neighborhood, your community, your school—who are doing good deeds. Save news stories about heroes who’ve gone out of their way to help others in time of need and share them with your kids.
- Perform random acts of kindness. From the simple act of holding a door for someone to participating in food or clothing drives to sending a note or calling someone just to see how she is doing, show your kids that small acts can make a big difference, that they can become change agents one step at a time.
Want to learn a little more about past State of the Kid Reports and my coverage of them?
fyi: This is a sponsored post, written as part of a partnership between me and my friends at Highlights for Children. As always, my opinion is all my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and parent.