It Seems Kids Aren't as Kind as They Used to Be

Bet you can guess who is to blame.

Little girl being bullied in classroom
Photo: Tom Wang/Shutterstock

When I was growing up, the golden rule of every classroom, playground, and group activity was "Treat others the way you want to be treated." I remember those words hanging on an inspirational poster in my second-grade classroom—the block letters a silent but ever-present reminder to be kind.

It seems maybe that lesson could use a little revival—the recent NBC News State of Kindness Poll, conducted online, surveyed 2,600 respondents and found that a large majority believe kids are getting meaner. Sixty-two percent of participants felt that kids are less kind than in the past, and 77 percent said moms and dads are to blame for the worsening behavior. Interestingly, women feel more certain that kids are displaying a lack of kindness than men.

This may be due to the fact that Americans don't list kindness as a top value—most parents find it more important to teach honesty (a whopping 49 percent), followed by kindness, a strong work ethic, courage, leadership, and toughness. According to the survey, millennials (my generation) differed, listing kindness as the top quality to teach kids...perhaps because the golden rule of our childhood sunk in?

But can kindness even be taught? Half of those polled who have kids believed nurture trumps nature when it comes to instilling kindness, as compared to the 56 percent of childless respondents who thought kids are born kind. Looking at just the mommas, slightly more than half say kindness must be learned as compared to the 58 percent of childless women who thought the trait was inherent.

The overall attitude that kindness is a lost quality may be the reason why the schools back in my hometown in California have instituted a new initiative—JBN, or "Just Be Nice," encouraging kids to simply be kind to their fellow students. The message flashes across the marquees in front of schools regularly, and I'm told they remind students of it over the intercom during morning announcements. A not-so-silent reminder (especially compared to the poster from my youth), which may be necessary in the face of these numbers.

Riyana Straetker is Editorial Assistant for Parents who really likes it when people are nice. Follow her on Twitter: @riyanastraetker.

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