We teach our kids to do well in school. We teach them to excel in sports. We teach them not to murder their siblings. But how much time and energy do we spend teaching them to be nice? Is it something we as parents even think is worth teaching? Are we caught up in the “nice guys finish last” theory?
I just read an article by Cindi Bigelow, CEO of Bigelow Tea in the Huffington Post. It really made me think about the messages I send my teens. Lately, I’m finding it really challenging to teach my teens about self-worth, confidence and honesty, particularly my daughter who is gaga over a boy for the first time. I feel like my time to teach my teens good character has become so short-term and exhausting.
Cindi Bigelow talks about what she looks for when she hires an employee and what she’s tried to teach her own children. She writes:
My list of what I want my kids to be is actually much longer than merely “nice.” In no particular order, I want them also to be:
I also have a list of what I don’t want them to be. I don’t want them to feel “entitled” or be disrespectful. And I certainly don’t want them to have an “attitude.”
And how do I impart this important information to my kids? By “messaging” to them continually (maybe similar to how a company tries to advertise its products). This kind of steady repetition of values is essential in raising our children. “Say please and thank you.” “Hold the door.” “Be kind to your brother.” “Be friendly to the kid who doesn’t have any friends.” “Tell the truth even when it hurts.” “Learn how to say ‘I’m sorry.'”
And the good news is it works. I’ve seen the results.
Bigelow believes young people actually want to be nice and are concerned with the direction the country is taking. As a parent of teens, it’s hard to judge whether this is true. While most of my teens’ friends are polite to me, they’re not always “nice” to each other.
I agree with Bigelow that being nice can help you get ahead in life. I am hoping this “entitled” generation will figure that out as they head into their 20s….
What I find so inspiring is that the younger generation is already wired for success and committed to traditional values like kindness and compassion and integrity. We just have to keep reinforcing that message and not let our society’s love of professional and material success overshadow the importance of being a good and decent person.
Readers, what are your thoughts? Has it becoming challenging for you as a parent to teach the importance of being nice when being selfish is completely acceptable? Do you think other parents consider the trait worth instilling in their teens?