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