Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Little Characters!

To better understand how to teach children to be happy and develop "habits of character," Harvard child psychologist Dan Kindlon, author of Raising Cain: Protecting The Emotional Life Of Boys, surveyed teenagers and parents and interviewed kids, parents, teachers, and school administrators. It's important to note that most of the families in the study were middle income and above.

The 12% who made the cut as children of character didn't manifest these "deadly syndromes":
* they did not drink, or smoke cigarettes or marijuana;
* they were not depressed, mean, spoiled, or self-centered;
* they did not suffer from eating problems;
* they said it was wrong for thirteen year olds to have sex; and
* they worked to their intellectual potential in school without being overly driven.
These "family behaviors and expectations" were common to the 12%:
* their families frequently ate dinner together;
* their parents were not divorced or separated;
* they had to keep their rooms clean;
* they did not have a phone in their room; and
* they did community service.
Since that leaves a decisive majority of 88%, it's likely that few children or parents will read those lists without feeling judged, and perhaps inclined to say that there are some things, especially clinical depression, which are beyond the reach of values education. Kindlon's point is not to stigmatize children but inspire parents. The hard and hopeful truth he has revealed is that the grownup outlook and behavior manifested in the last four points tend to give kids the advantages of the first five.

Hat tip to the Newsletter of the National Assn. of Episcopal Schools

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