Parents, It’s Our Job to Raise Our Kids to Be Kind

I’ve got a daughter in the first grade, and a daughter entering kindergarten in the fall. If you’re like me, this is an overwhelming time of life. There are a thousand extracurricular programs for my kids. Classes in everything from cooking to robotics, yoga to math camps. All designed to do one thing; make my kids smarter and more well-rounded.

As parents, we are pressured from their conception to do everything we can to make sure that they are well educated and well rounded. We invest in college savings plans because, without them, they won’t go the good colleges. We invest in the best preschools because, without them, our kids won’t be “ready” for kindergarten.

All of these things are good. I’m all for my kids going to good colleges. I’m all for my kids being well educated and smart and well rounded. I’m investing in a 529 for my kids, and we moved into a neighborhood with great schools. These things are all great. But lately I’ve been thinking: what if there’s something more important?

What if what’s most important is raising our kids to be kind?

We live in the most polarized time in the history of the world. Turn on the news for 10 minutes and you’ll quickly see how cynical and divided and angry we are. Head to Twitter and spend 5 minutes there. We speak to complete strangers with words that we would never say to someone’s face. We’re a generation who doesn’t know how to be kind.

We don’t know how to disagree with one another, or how to communicate with anyone with an opinion different than our own. Anybody who disagrees with us is full of hate. We’re a generation of people whose default mode is angry and cynical.

I believe we can break this cycle.

My wife and I have decided that what’s most important to us is raising our children to be kind. Raising them to know that yes, being smart is great. Being athletic is great. Being well-rounded is great. But being kind? That is what changes the world.

I believe that kindness is going to change this world. I believe the kind of pure, unfiltered kindness that I see in my children is what is going to make this world a better place. When our oldest started kindergarten, I would tell her the same thing before she left for school every day. I would look her in the eyes and tell her, “have fun, and be kind.” She took that advice seriously. She went to the kids that nobody else was playing with, and she spent every recess for the entire school year playing with them.

This is what I mean. Radical kindness. Will you join me?

Sure, save for college. Put your kids in after school Lego classes. Sign them up for piano lessons. These are all great. But more than anything, teach your kids to be kind. Teach them that every person has worth. That being unkind is a waste of breath and a waste of time. Teach them that by being kind, they can change the world.

 

Stephen Carter is a writer, husband, father, & friend. He lives in Portland with his wife Rachel, and 3 beautiful girls, Avery, Rylee, & Hattie. When he’s not reading or writing, he enjoys a local micro-brew, or a strong cup of coffee. He is passionate about literature, theology, justice, Daniel Day-Lewis movies, U2 records (but with strong reservations about No Line on the Horizon), and believes that the right words can change the world. He can be found on: Twitter: @stephenedwardc

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