On Redefining Happiness…

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The Making Caring Common Project released some very interesting research last week, and if you haven’t seen it you should really take a look.  Titled “The Children We Mean to Raise: The Real Messages Adults Are Sending About Values”, the results of the survey eye-opening.  Bottom line:  You might think that you prioritize prosocial behaviors such as empathy, kindness, and being a caring person, but there’s a significant chance that what your child is internalizing is that you want her to be successful.  In fact, only 19% of the youth surveyed (from all over this country) picked “caring” as a priority for their parents.

I hear a lot about kids being “overindulged” or “not having enough responsibility” today.  But this isn’t about chores or too much designer clothing.  This about core values.  This is about the race to nowhere overwhelming our children.  They work hard to succeed in school, on the field, and just about everywhere else, until they pass out from exhaustion and do it all over again.  Kids are being pushed to succeed at all costs, and prosocial behavior and kind and caring character seem to top the lists of costs.

The good news is that it’s always a good time to work on character building.  We have the ability to send better, more positive, messages to our kids every single day.  But it has to start at home, and it has to be a daily effort.

  • Talk about what it means to demonstrate kind and caring behavior.
  • Learn about positive role models – both historical figures and people making a difference today.
  • Choose a family community service project to work on throughout the next year and see it through.
  • Use kind and caring language in your home.
  • Build each other up every single day.  Bad days happen, but there is always something good to highlight (no matter how small).
  • Eat meals together as much as possible and talk as a family.
  • Encourage expression of emotions and teach your children how to cope with negative emotions.
  • Three words:  Family game night.
  • Put down the technology and connect on a human level.  We are moving too fast and glossing over the good stuff.  Reconnect as much as possible.  Model healthy use of technology for your kids and be the kind of parent who isn’t afraid to set limits.
  • Be empathic.  Every.  Single.  Day.

There are endless ways to model and teach kindness and caring and I would love to hear all of yours.  I would also love to have you stop by The Huffington Post to check out “7 Ways to Redefine Happiness and Raise Kind and Caring Kids”.

See you there!

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About Katie

Katie Hurley is a Child, Adolescent, and Family Psychotherapist and Parenting Expert in Los Angeles, CA. She works in private practice in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, writes for PBS Parents, Washington Post Parents, and the Huffington Post. She is the author of "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World" (Tarcher/Penguin, 2015) and the forthcoming "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" (Penguin Random House, 2018)