Parenting might have one of the longest job descriptions one may ever hold with the least amount of pay. In fact it costs a great deal financially, emotionally and spiritually. There is no award. There is no destination. One sometimes feels like you have to wait until the end of your life time to see the end result of your work. It seems though, that I don’t have to wait until my end to see the fruits of my labor, maybe you don’t either. Together, let’s look at parenting right smack dab in the middle.Read More
What's Happening in Character?
Years ago, my then one-year-old son Ben played with a ball popper during playgroup. His friend Brooke found the same toy appealing and was displeased. She couldn’t form sentences yet, but she let Ben know his turn was up and the toy was rightfully hers. She babbled loudly right in his face for a full minute without stopping for air, then grabbed the toy. As my son drooled and looked at her wide-eyed, her mother sighed. “I think I’m in for it,” she told me. “I love her toughness, but my biggest fear is that she’ll grow up to be a mean girl.”
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.Read More
By Kris Yankee, Co-Founder, High 5 for Character
Summer reading was always an escape for me. I read as much as I could and as often as I was able. The Nancy Drew Mysteries series was one of my favorites. I loved that there were twists and turns, and even though it was always possible that Nancy wouldn’t solve the mystery, I was still so happy in the end when she did. At the time, I didn’t realize that I was learning trustworthiness, reliability, responsibility, friendship, integrity, and many other character traits that are so important to the formation of young minds. I was just having fun reading!
As a parent, I wanted to instill the love of reading in my kids. Every night, my husband and I would each take turns reading with both of our sons when they were very young. We had so many books to choose from! We’d read one of our many Dr. Seuss or Harold and the Purple Crayon books. Our boys loved the Veggie Tales stories, Thomas the Tank Engine, and the Berenstain Bear books. I secretly loved reading the Laura Joffe Numeroff books If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and If You Give a Pig a Pancake.
We spent quality time with our sons, making memories that none of us will forget. And…the boys were entertained but they were also learning about confidence, creativity, purpose, responsibility, friendship, integrity, and trustworthiness. My husband and I wanted our kids to have a sense of positive character and we made sure that the books that we read to them exuded those principles.
Once our boys were a bit older, our reading time together changed. They wanted to read on their own (which was fine by me) and the books they chose usually were in line with the standards we had created. Occasionally when each would bring home a book that I thought was a bit too silly, each would be able to tell me something redeeming about it, i.e., “It’s so funny, it cracks me up every time I read it” or “The pictures are so cool.” But really, how could I complain? They were READING! Still, though, I felt that they were making positive choices and the books continued to contain positive, or at least redeeming, character qualities.
As an author, I’m often asked what inspired me to write. My resounding answer is always, “My boys!” Then to add to that…all of the other kids who are out there. I believe that books are so important and that when kids are reading “good stuff,” they will imitate and emulate “good stuff.” A well-written story can really effect a child, making that child believe that he or she is one of the characters or is taking part in the world created by the author. How cool is it to soar through the sky or hang upside down in a tree in a jungle or be as small as a mouse and scurry across the floor!Read More
by Dave Keller
As a parent, some of my fondest memories revolve around countless evenings reading with my children. Most families have their own personalized rituals -- my family is no different. For us, reading was more of an event, rather than a mere activity. We read together as a group, often using silly accents and eccentric voice characterizations. Stuffed animals joined in nightly, with my children giving them voice and various quirks as they read certain page.
My children are largely grown now. The days of huddling together reading stories heading into bedtime are long gone.
I’m not sure I realized it at the time, but, looking back, I now realize much more was happening during those times than merely spending quality time together -- even more than simply teaching my children to read. We were modeling the joy of reading to our kids. We were increasing their desire to learn.
We were also passing along important character lessons, both directly and indirectly. We’d talk about the choices of characters -- and the consequences of those choices. We talked about how the characters treated one another. We talked about desired qualities such as honesty, kindness, and perseverance.
The cognitive benefits of reading are well-known. Research clearly shows consistent reading with children improves critical thinking, brain development, and enhanced communication skills. Indeed, the month of March has several focus points for reading: March is National Reading Month, and March 2 is designated as Read Across America Day by the National Education Association.
As a character educator, I am particularly interested in harnessing the power of reading to help develop character values in young people. Character.org has consistently recognized schools across the country with academic initiatives that enhance character development, through both our National Schools of Character and our Promising Practices programs.
One of our current initiatives is an emerging partnership with the great folks at First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides access to new books for children in need. To date, First Book has distributed more than 135 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout the United States and Canada. First Book is transforming the lives of children in need and elevating the quality of education by making new, high-quality books available on an ongoing basis.Read More
By Philip Brown
Whether we are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, we can all agree that the holidays can bring out the best of us and the worst of us. As the big end of year holidays approach it is a common experience to get anxious about how much there is to do, whether we have enough gifts to make everyone happy, and if our celebration of family and religious traditions will go as we hope. Our motives may be the best, but execution is daunting.
For parents there is a particular dilemma that is in our face every day because of the commercialization of the holidays that begins in early November. How can we help our kids understand the joy of giving as well as the pleasure of receiving? How can I make it a holiday filled with love rather than a time of regret and emotional emptiness?Read More
by Michele Borba
There’s something about the Thanksgiving season that tunes up my “reflective switch” and makes me think a bit more about our children. I worry that over the years we’ve removed ourselves a bit as a society from the real meaning of this glorious holiday. We’re seeing an upsurge–even in a recession–of kids who are a bit too spoiled, a bit too unappreciative, and a bit more ungrateful for all the good things life has to offer.
Don’t get me wrong, of course we want our kids to be happy and give them what they want. But have you noticed that sometimes our best intentions backfire? Instead of our kids being grateful for what they are given, they are disappointed or always seem to want “more.”
In all fairness, there are a number of factors that curtail our kids from being appreciative about the good things of life.
For starters: a relentless consumption-driven media that pushes kids to think they need more, and a fast-paced lifestyle that leaves little time to help kids count their blessings.Read More
by Michele Borba
Academic success impacts our children for the rest of their lives: it influences their self-esteem, college selections, job attainment, financial success, and even their choice of spouse. It’s no wonder we go great lengths to give our kids an academic edge.
But despite our good intentions, we often overlook a few simple strategies that research has proven to impact children’s academic success. Even better, these seven science-backed solutions are things that every parent can do, don’t cost a dime, and they are proven to boost children’s school success.
Here are seven surprising simple solutions that every parent should have in their toolbox for back-to-school.Read More