What's Happening in Character?

10 Ways To Raise Kids To Care: Simple Ways Parents Can Help Today’s ME Generation Learn to Be Kind

Posted by Michele Borba on Thu, Jun 1, 2017 @ 09:06 AM

Empathy is the ability to identify with and feel for another person. It’s the powerful quality that halts violent and cruel behavior and urges us to treat others kindly. Empathy emerges naturally and quite early, which means our children are born with a huge built-in advantage for success and happiness.

Though children are born with the capacity for empathy, it must be nurtured or it will remain dormant. And there lies the problem: studies show that American teens today are 40 percent less empathetic than they were thirty years ago. That’s a dangerous trend for many reasons. First, it hurts our kids’ academic performance, relationships and can lead to bullying behaviors. Also, it correlates with more cheating and less resilience. And once children grow up, a lack of empathy hampers their ability to collaborate, innovate and problem-solve—all must-have skills for life-long success.

But there’s good news for parents. The latest science shows that empathy can be taught and nurtured. My new book, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me-World (Simon & Schuster) pinpoints not only the forces causing the empathy crisis but also a framework for parenting that yields the results we all want: successful, happy kids who also are kind, moral, courageous and resilient. Here are ten simple ways that we can teach our kids to care about others and boost their empathy from UnSelfie, which offers over 500 simple ways.

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Topics: Borba Michele, empathy, Kindness,, Parenting

The Five Most Creative Ways to Give Children the Edge They Need to Succeed

Posted by Michele Borba on Thu, Sep 8, 2016 @ 10:09 AM

In writing and researching UnSelfie, I flew the world, spoke with hundreds of researchers, conducted focus groups with more than five hundred children, and visited dozens of schools. I witnessed countless ways to cultivate empathy, but the most effective were always real, meaningful, and matched a child’s needs. Here are a few of the most creative ways adults around the world are making a difference in cultivating children’s empathy, creating an UnSelfie world and giving them the Empathy Advantage.

 

Be Friendly 

Empathy is always a “We” affair. A simple, overlooked way to increase empathy is by making the culture friendlier. Just being with people in a friendly setting can increase your empathy toward them and make you want to be kinder. The small South Pacific island of Vanuatu exemplifies that social premise. It’s called “the Friendliest Place on Earth” and after visiting their island, I can see why. Everywhere residents greeted you with a sincere hello and a smile and seemed genuinely interested in you. Their friendliness was contagious, so you responded right back with a hello and a smile to a stranger.

When I asked Vanuatu residents why they were so friendly, their answer was simple: “Because everyone else is.” Friendliness makes you tune in, observe emotional cues, be more receptive to others’ feelings and needs, and instead of walking by, you smile and acknowledge a person’s existence right back. But you don’t have to move your family to the South Pacific to gain that “friendly effect.” Just intentionally take friendliness up a notch in your home, school, and neighborhood; here are a few ways.

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Topics: empathy, international

Six Ways Students Can Spread Kindness in Your School

Posted by Michele Borba on Mon, Aug 29, 2016 @ 09:08 AM

Practicing kindness is what helps children tune into other people’s feelings and needs, trust more, step out of their own skins to understand others, and become UnSelfies (“more we, less me” oriented). Each kind act nudges kids to notice others (“I see how you feel”). Care (“I’m concerned about you”), empathize (“I feel with you”) and help and comfort (“Let me ease your pain”). And helping students practice kindness also activates empathy. That’s why I named “Practicing Kindness” as the sixth essential habit of empathy.

 Over the last years, I’ve observed countless classrooms around the world as I was researching ways to nurture children’s empathy. Here are a few favorite ways educators help students practice kindness and acquire empathy from my book, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World. (I’ve included over 300 practical ways based on the latest science, and none cost a dime and are simple to implement).


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Topics: Borba Michele, empathy, Kindness,, Michele Borba

What Do Kids Really Need to Be Happy and Successful? Empathy.

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Sat, Jul 16, 2016 @ 20:07 PM


Dr. Michele Borba writes in her new book Unselfie, “While we may be producing a smart, self-assured generation of young people, today’s kids are also the most self-centered, saddest and stressed on record.”

According to a University of Michigan Study,

  • Teens today are now 40% lower in empathy levels than 3 decades ago.
  • In the same period narcissism has increased by 58%

And multiple studies have shown there has been a clear increase in peer cruelty.

We need to counteract those trends by teaching empathy. Sometimes considered a “soft” skill, new research featured in Dr. Borba’s book shows that empathy plays a surprising role in predicting kids’ happiness and success. And it’s not an inborn trait, but a quality that must be taught.

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Topics: empathy

Choosing Love

Posted by Scarlett Lewis on Mon, Apr 4, 2016 @ 06:04 AM

By Scarlett Lewis, Founder of Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement

Following the murder of my 6 year old son in his first grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I asked myself the same two questions that everyone was asking: how could something like this happen, and what can I do to make sure this never happens again?

I knew that anyone who could have brutally murdered 20 first graders and 6 educators in his former elementary school, must have been in a tremendous amount of pain. This pain fueled unrelenting anger. I realized, this whole tragedy began with an angry thought that was precipitated by pain. And an angry thought can be changed.

Pain is a catalyst for anger. Instilling character values such as gratitude, forgiveness and love helps us choose the right thoughts and provides us with tools to understand and overcome our pain and thus deconstruct anger. Character values give us basic tools that are the foundation of essential 21st century life skills.

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Topics: empathy, Caring Classrooms,, Kindness,, Caring Community

Increasing Empathy & Disability Awareness through Project HEART

Posted by Kim Dailey on Mon, Mar 21, 2016 @ 07:03 AM

by Kim Dailey, Special School District Educator, Lindbergh Schools

Thirty-one years of classroom teaching has taken me from my home in the Midwest, to the East Coast, to the West Coast, and home again. Today I’m very fortunate to live in one caring community and work in yet another.  I see evidence of this care in my school every day. Though I am employed by Special School District of St. Louis County, I provide special education services at Lindbergh High School and have been actively involved in the district’s character education initiatives for many years. As a special education teacher and the parent of an adult son with autism, my heart is in developing opportunities for disability awareness.  I have seen firsthand the value of a caring community in the life of my son, Zachary, and in the lives of my students.

Several years ago, an assistant principal at my school approached me about organizing a disability awareness event sponsored by former NFL player, Kurt Warner and his wife Brenda’s First Things First Foundation.  I had no experience in organizing such an event but couldn’t resist the opportunity.

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Topics: empathy, Caring Classrooms,, Kindness,, Caring Community

Resource Roundup: Getting Started with Core Values!

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Tue, Dec 1, 2015 @ 08:12 AM

While there’s no particular order you need to address each of the 11 Principles, naturally, many schools start with principle 1, “The school promotes core ethical and performance values as the foundations of core values.”

When it comes to principle 1, the most valuable resources you have at your disposal are your stakeholders: administrators, teachers, support staff, students, parents, community leaders…

However, there are some resources that can help you jumpstart the process, as well!

Getting Started

If you want to make the most of your most valuable resource, your stakeholders, first you need them to buy in. Need help convincing your staff, parents and larger community that character education isn’t just nice to have but absolutely necessary?

Show them “A Question of Character,” a short documentary from the Jubilee Center of Character & Virtues that demonstrates the need for character education and the impact it can make.

Looking to brainstorm core values before beginning your selection process? Take a look at the words Core Essential Values has chosen to highlight in their 2015-2016 Values Calendar. The Virtues Project is a great resource as well. Be sure to check out the comprehensive list of values complete with definitions.

There are so many core values to choose from, we couldn’t possibly name them all, but here are a few examples and some resources that can help you approach the topic.

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Topics: integrity, core values, empathy, Kindness,, Resource Roundup, Character Resource Roundup

Examining Poverty & Cultivating Empathy: Three Books that will expand your perspective

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Mon, Nov 9, 2015 @ 13:11 PM

By Becky Sipos

I’ve been preparing for Thanksgiving, anticipating a visit to see my grandchildren in South Dakota and looking forward to all the family socializing in the kitchen as we prepare our traditional feast. This banquet will be quite a contrast to the three books I’ve been reading.The first is Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, my book club’s nonfiction selection this month. I thought the horrific stories of life in the slums of Mumbai, India, would be too awful to read, but Boo’s empathetic portrayal really drew me into their lives. I cheered for Abdul, the young garbage sorter, who works hard to get ahead, and was intrigued by Zehrunisa, his mother, whose efforts so often backfired despite her best efforts. As I got to know the complexity of the people, I was appalled by the corruption in society. But even when I felt that some deserved some blame for certain outcomes, I certainly understood and empathized with why they did what they did. I liked that Boo did not just focus on the terrible things. She showed the fun and playfulness of flagpole ring toss, teenage girl tell-all sessions and more. The book gave me a look at an aspect of society I had never really contemplated before. As a former journalism teacher, I read with amazement wondering how she gained the trust of her subjects and got such details of their lives. It also made me think how important it is that she makes us look at something we’d normally not notice. Now that we’re aware, what should we do? The author said in an interview: “If we don’t have all the time in the world to make things perfect, we can still make incremental and meaningful improvements. And seeing what’s wrong—seeing it clearly—seems to me a crucial part of beginning to set it right.”

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Topics: empathy, Book Review, Poverty

Finding Kind

Posted by Rachel Winer on Thu, Sep 25, 2014 @ 16:09 PM

By Barbara Gruener

Fall was turning into winter last year when we realized it was time to freshen up the bulletin board at the end of my hallways. My intern Anna suggested a winter scene and I told her I wanted it to have something to do with kindness. I suggested Kindness = Global Warming. I could totally see it. A snow globe with a scene out of a Norman Rockwell painting, until she said, “You want melting snowmen?” Well no, not the global warming that melts polar ice sheets and glaciers and makes life challenging for polar bears. I’m talking about the kind of global warming that warms hearts all over the world. We compromised and agreed on It’s Cool To Be Kind All Around The Globe.

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Topics: Forum Speakers, empathy

Teaching animal appreciation: a pathway to character

Posted by Rob McManamy on Fri, Mar 14, 2014 @ 13:03 PM

by Zoe Weil

President, Institute for Humane Education

What should character education teach students about kindness to animals?

At first, the answer to this question might seem obvious: people of good character treat nonhuman animals with respect and consideration; therefore, we should educate students to be compassionate and responsible citizens in relation to other species. Role models for good character, such as Albert Schweitzer and Mahatma Gandhi, articulate clear responsibilities toward animals. Gandhi went so far as to say, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” 

But it’s not that simple.

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Topics: moral character, virtues, compassion, empathy