Want Your Kids to Succeed? Emphasize Kindness
The holidays are over. Children are back to school. And you’re about to get on your kid’s case about—what else, his academic performance.
Not so fast.
In a study, sixth-grade students who believed their parents stressed academics over social skills and kindness had lower GPAs and were reported by teachers to have more learning problems and disruptive behavior, according Suniya Luthar, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Arizona State University.
Paradoxical? Perhaps. But that’s what experts found when they asked 506 youngsters to rank their parents’ values. Three of the choices centered on personal achievements, such as good grades and a successful career; three concerned kindness and decency toward others.
The best outcomes, Luthar said, were found among kids who said their mothers and fathers each valued kindness as much as, or more than, academic performance. Poorer results were seen among kids who felt their moms or dads put more emphasis on grades.
“To be clear, our data did not show that encouraging achievement in itself is bad,” said Lucia Ciciolla, study coauthor and assistant professor in the psychology department at Oklahoma State University.
“It becomes destructive when it comes across as critical, and when it overshadows, or does not coexist with, a simultaneous value on more intrinsic goals that are oriented toward personal growth, interpersonal connections, and community well-being,” she added.
Nature, Nurture, Something Else?
New Insight into Infant Disposition
Here’s an interesting theory to explain why babies seem to differ from nation to nation: their behavior—and their overall temperament—may reflect the specific cultural values of parents in each country.
In research published in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology, investigators from two American universities linked certain characteristics of babies’ behavior in four nations to values held by parents.
American babies, for example, tend to be more social and impulsive than babies from other nations, based on reports from the babies’ mothers. American babies also are more likely to enjoy highly stimulating activities.
The study found, too, that American babies were less likely to display negative emotions, compared with babies from other nations, and were relatively easy to soothe when upset. That makes sense, considering previous studies suggest Americans in general are less tolerant of negativity, and that may lead U.S. parents to actively discourage their children from expressing negative emotions.
Similarly, researchers found the same types of trends in other nations. For instance, South Koreans tend to value self-control and the ability to pay attention. Not surprisingly, those babies had the longest attention spans, and they liked to cuddle the most, but also were the least active.
“Our questionnaire focuses on concrete behaviors in specific contexts rather than relying on global ratings of the child’s traits,” said Maria Gartstein, a study author and psychology professor at Washington State University. “It gives us a powerful lens to examine the developmental interplay between persons and their environments in different cultures.”
Dividing Up the Goodies
Sharing Is Easier When Kids Call the Shots
A new study may put an end to the bickering that comes with kids’ sharing.
Israeli experts found that while kids are not always happy about sharing, or happy to share when someone else gets more, they would rather hand over a bigger piece of pie than waste it—as long as they get to decide who gets the smaller piece.
So yes, it’s as simple as that. Or so suggests Shoham Choshen-Hillel, senior researcher at the School of Business Administration at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Apparently, around the age of seven, kids “develop an understanding that inequity is not problematic in and of itself,” the Israeli investigator noted.
“Instead, they realize that inequity is problematic when it is driven by unfairness or partiality. We have evidence that even children as young as seven years of age are concerned with inequity only when it is seen as unfair,” she explained.
So, next time you want your kid to share a precious commodity, hang back and let your little one make the allocation.
“This way, the child will benefit from giving to his siblings or friends and would be more satisfied with the final allocation, even if he or she gets less than the others. It is a win-win,” Choshen-Hillel said.