Different people have different ideas of what it means to be a success. This perspective has much to do with determining parenting techniques and methods used to shape a child’s character. My opinion in raising my sons was that I wanted them to be good men.

I believe that if they are good men, they will then have a clear conscience. This will enable them to live at peace with themselves which makes contentment and happiness possible. Academic achievement and a financially lucrative career won’t matter if they are miserable and have no self-respect. Often, my achievement driven sister would criticize me with comments about raising him like a hippie or beatnik. Now, however, Harvard has vindicated me!

The college conducted a project regarding kindness that involved about 10,000 children and their parents representing a wide variety of races, cultures and social classes.  Although almost eighty percent of the parents taught their children that achievement was more important than the care of others,  almost all of the children involved disagreed with this idea three to one.

Although many parents claim to be concerned about the morality of their children, they don’t seem to walk their talk. Parents prioritize grades to community involvement. Parents go to great efforts to see that their children perform well in school. They pay for tutors, sit down and go over homework, they are willing to commit personal time to drive their children to after school study workshops. However, these same parents rarely set an example of commitment to community service. There is little or no encouragement to be involved in helping the poor, volunteering at shelters, visiting the elderly and homebound, etc.

Although parents may have strong desires and good intentions where their child’s moral development is concerned, they must do more than talk about it. They must do something about it. Kindness is a condition that a child must be trained to have because we are all inherently selfish creatures, born with a strong survival instinct that is behind those infant screams when they are hungry. The “me, me, me” attitude that is natural to every human being must be reshaped to care about others just as certainly as a child’s eyes has to be trained to recognize written symbols as sounds that make words.

The final results of Harvard’s kindness project has come up with a few suggestions on how to accomplish raising a kind child. Practicing kindness tops the list. Everyday look for an opportunity to point out to your child an act of kindness they can perform. Need is everywhere. It shouldn’t be a hard thing to do.

Children need to be taught not just to listen, but also to be discerning. Show them how to pick up on subtle verbal cues and body language that indicate a person has a need but is not expressing it. Most people are conditioned to be resolute and simply don’t ask for help. Are you chatting in line at the grocery store with a mother and notice that her coat and her children’s coats are all too small? Is the temperature outside ten below and none of them are wearing gloves? Help your children learn to see more than what is within their own little world.

Be a kind parent. The role model is the strongest influence that the child will carry within themselves for a lifetime.

Elevate your child’s mind. Don’t think that they are too young to have deep ethical conversations. Their perceptiveness is uncanny. Most children have a moral compass that is surprisingly sophisticated. Have honest and frank conversations with your kids. Allow children to extend kindness to adults by giving them permission to recognize that parents are not perfect yet loving them anyway, the same way that parents love them. Allow them to be aware of our imperfections and love us in spite of them. This teaches them the mature and selfless way to love others.