What we Model is Copied
11 August 2017
Are we sending our children the message we think we’re sending? It seems as though our actions scream louder than our words! A recent Harvard study has revealed that most parents consider it more important to raise an empathetic, compassionate child than a successful child. So why don’t our kids get that message?
The study asked children to respond to this statement: ‘My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.’ Eighty percent of students agreed with this statement. So where is the message getting confused?
What we praise is reinforced. Families consistently praise and reward good grades, winning sporting behaviour and outstanding achievement. Do we praise and reward kindness and inclusive behaviour in the same way?
What we model is copied. We all understand that actions speak louder than words. When parents argue with teachers about grades, campaign for their child to be included in sporting teams and strive to see their child outperform other children, they are sending an unmistakable message.
Our words speak to character. An innovative study tested the impact of words of praise on the development of empathy. When character was praised rather than actions, children were far more likely to internalise and replicate compassionate behaviour; ‘You are such a kind person’ rather than ‘That was a kind thing to do’. As our children struggle to discover who they are, our words about their character have a profound impact on who they become.
We need to nexperience compassion in order to show compassion. This is children raising 101! When parents and teachers show genuine compassion and empathy to children, they are far more likely to show compassion to others. As adults we sometimes act as though we have a right to show our frustration in a way that is far from compassionate. No matter how much a child or teenager annoys or frustrates us, we have an opportunity to be empathetic and gracious in the way we resolve problems.
The great news is that children have a huge capacity to learn to be compassionate and kind! The challenge is how can we send the clear message that compassion is important to us?
Head of Primary