Raising Caring Children

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Adam Grant, professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, discusses what it takes to raise a child who is kind and generous, and knows right from wrong. Hint: it's less what you say, and more what you do that teaches kids positive morals.

→ Event: Grant will be speaking at THRIVE: A Third Metric Live Event with Arianna Huffington April 24th at the New York City Center.

So what does it take to raise caring, moral children? Here's what we learned from Adam Grant:

  • Praise Effort, Not Talent: Grant says Tiger Mothers and Lombardi Dads often focus on achievements because they're easy to measure. Focusing on talent makes children believe their skills are fixed, which means they'll walk away from failures with no intention to improve. Focusing on effort encourages children to try harder when they fail and test new strategies.
  • Praise Character, Not Behavior: Grant says you should compliment a child's character ("You shared your toys - you are a nice playmate!") rather than their behavior ("You shared your toys - that was a nice thing to do!"). This encourages them to internalize those characteristics as part of their identity.
  • Be Disappointed, Not Angry or Forgiving: Disappointment sends a clear message to kids: "I have high hopes for you and I believe you're capable of better. You let me down this time but next time you can improve." This uses guilt as a powerful positive emotion to encourage better behavior. 
  • Be the Good Person You Want Your Child to Be: Children learn best through observation. It's not enough to tell children to behave well; your behavior has more of an impact on your child's learning than your words.