Thursday, June 26th, 2014
A Harvard University survey of school-aged kids has found that 80 percent of children believe that their parents care more about happiness and academic and athletic achievement than moral attributes like kindness. The survey collected opinions from 10,000 children from 33 school districts nationwide, and though researchers were not surprised that kids reported parental concern about their happiness, they were taken aback by how strongly children perceive their parents’ attention to be focused on achievement as a priority. More from Today.com:
Students said that achievement was the most important value and thought their peers would agree. More importantly, students reported that their parents appreciated achievement much more than happiness or kindness. They were three times as likely to agree with the statement “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member.”
This means kids think much less about being nice than they do about getting an A on a test, winning a swim meet, or being best camper. Yet, all this focus on accomplishment doesn’t lead to content kids.
“The achievement pressure can have a bunch of negative results,” says Weissbourd, who is co-director of the Making Caring Common project. “I’m concerned that it makes kids less happy.”
Weissbourd says living up to this standard causes stress and depression and can lead to bad behaviors, such as cheating. Studies have found that 50 percent of students admit to cheating and 75 percent say they have copied someone else’s homework, possibly in an attempt to live up to expectations.
But, teaching children about caring can enrich their lives.
“I think that the irony is that when kids are caring and really able to tune in and take responsibility for other people, they are going to have better relationships,” he says. “And those relationships are probably the most important aspect of happiness.
Image: Straight A’s report card, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
New Yorker Polly McCourt was taken by surprise as her labor progressed so quickly she didn’t have time to make it to the hospital to deliver her baby Monday. She wound up delivering the babe–a girl and her and her husband’s third child–at the crosswalk between East 68th Street and 3rd Avenue, with the help of a number of kind passersby. More from MyFoxNY.com:
The doorman had walked Polly McCourt to the corner to grab a taxi, but the baby wouldn’t wait. Polly got down on the ground in the crosswalk as several passersby stopped to help until police and medics arrived and took care of her.
“She was like, ‘oh, my God, the baby’s coming’,” one witness said. “And then I could see the baby’s head coming out.”
Several women offered their scarves to wrap up the newborn. One woman, believed to be named Isabel, gave Polly her coat to keep her warm.
A Fox 5 News crew just happened to be driving by as this unfolded on East 68th Street and 3rd Avenue on Monday afternoon at about 3:30 p.m.
“A miracle on 3rd Avenue,” a woman who helped in the delivery said.
Polly was seen smiling as she was loaded into the back of an ambulance.
A day later, Polly and her baby girl were doing well at Lenox Hill Hospital.
Image: Busy city crosswalk, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, February 13th, 2014
Fourteen-year-old Will Hart has made headlines, and cast a positive light on a very snowy winter, by creating a simple message into the snow on top of a parking garage visible from his mother’s hospital room, where she is undergoing treatment for a recently diagnosed leukemia. Today.com reports:
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To boost her spirits, the teen made a simple gesture that brought joy not only to his mom, Shari Hart, but to many others at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago as well.
On Saturday, as Will headed to the hospital with his dad and uncle, the trio shuffled their feet through the snow on top of a parking garage to form a message from Will: “Hi Mom,” with a smiley face inside the O just for fun.
From the garage across the street, he called Hart and coaxed her to her 14th floor window, where she proudly waved down to her son. The snowy note came as Hart, who has acute myeloid leukemia, was exhausted from chemotherapy.
“It was very sweet and I felt very uplifted,” said Hart, 48. “My son is an amazing 14-year-old with an ability to make me smile any time of day.”
It’s not the only heartwarming snow message appearing outside of hospitals. Earlier this week, an unknown woman and man stomped the word “Love” and a peace symbol outside of the St. Cloud Hospital in Minnesota.
After visiting his wife in the hospital, Hart’s husband, Tim, felt the trio should add to their message to inspire fellow patients and the doctors and nurses caring for them. They planned for “God Bless You All,” but ran out of space, with room only for: “God Bless U” in large capital letters.
“It was a proud mommy moment, and being married to someone who wants to send a message to so many people is beyond wonderful,” said Hart, married for 24 years. “The amount of love there is just incredible.”
Will noticed that people were watching from other windows in the hospital, some waving and jumping up and down with excitement.
One of those was Angela Washek, a surgical intensive care unit nurse, who snapped a photo and shared it with hospital officials. After the hospital posted the photo on its Facebook page Monday, Will’s 18-year-old sister, Hannah, identified her family. “It brought joy to my whole unit and our patients’ families just as much as I’m sure it brought joy to your family,” Washek wrote on Facebook to Hannah.
Friday, October 18th, 2013
Even though parents teach children to consider others’ feelings and be kind starting in toddlerhood, the most important cognitive skills associated with empathy are still developing well into adolescence–later for boys than girls, according to a new six-year study published in the journal Developmental Psychology. More from The Wall Street Journal:
In adolescence, critical social skills that are needed to feel concern for other people and understand how they think are undergoing major changes. Adolescence has long been known as prime time for developing cognitive skills for self-control, or executive function.
“Cognitive empathy,” or the mental ability to take others’ perspective, begins rising steadily in girls at age 13, according to a six-year study published recently in Developmental Psychology. But boys don’t begin until age 15 to show gains in perspective-taking, which helps in problem-solving and avoiding conflict.
Adolescent males actually show a temporary decline, between ages 13 and 16, in a related skill—affective empathy, or the ability to recognize and respond to others’ feelings, according to the study, co-authored by Jolien van der Graaff, a doctoral candidate in the Research Centre Adolescent Development at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Fortunately, the boys’ sensitivity recovers in the late teens. Girls’ affective empathy remains relatively high and stable through adolescence.
The riptides are often noticeable to parents. Susan Burkinshaw has tried to cultivate empathy in her two teenage sons, 16 and 18, since they were toddlers, encouraging them to think about others’ feelings. Yet one “went through a period in eighth grade where he was just a bear to deal with. He always had an attitude,” says Ms. Burkinshaw, of Germantown, Md. “Then as quickly as it came on, it turned back off again.”
The findings reflect a major expansion in researchers’ understanding of cognitive growth during adolescence, according to a 2012 research review co-authored by Ronald Dahl, a professor of public health at the University of California at Berkeley. Researchers used to believe that both forms of empathy were fully formed during childhood.
Now, it’s clear that “the brain regions that support social cognition, which helps us understand and interact with others successfully, continue to change dramatically” in the teens, says Jennifer Pfeifer, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Preliminary research in her lab also suggests cognitive empathy rises in teens. The discoveries serve as a new lens for exploring such teen behaviors as bullying and drug abuse.
Image: Teen friends, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, October 30th, 2012
The seniors on an undefeated Arizona high school football team are working as a team in a unique way–they’re lending advice and support to a special-needs girl who has been the target of bullies because of her health issues. The New York Daily News has more:
A group of kindhearted seniors on Arizona’s Queen Creek High School football team have lent Chy Johnson some tactical defense, helping a girl whose brain disorder once made her an easy target for bullies.
The new friendship started when Elizabeth Johnson, whose daughter said girls threw trash on her at school, contacted starting quarterback Carson Jones.
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“I emailed Carson, told him that Chy was having some issues, was just wanting some names,” she told a local television station.
“He took it a step further and went and gathered Chy up at lunch and she’s been eating lunch with them ever since,” Johnson said.
Jones, fellow teammate Tucker Workman and many other Queen Creek Bulldogs have also started looking after Chy throughout the day, a move that has stopped people from bothering her.
“I guess they’ve seen her with us or something,” Jones said.