Successful, Happy, or Caring?
There was a news story this week about values of teens and their parents. A Harvard researcher surveyed over 10,000 middle school and high school students from across the country. The students were asked what they thought their parents cared most about: that they would be successful, happy, or care for others.
Over 80% of the students selected high achievement or happiness. Only 20% of students thought that “caring for others” was most important to their parents. The result was striking, because in other research, most parents said that raising children who cared for others was more important to them than achievement.
When asked why they answered as they did, teens said things like their parents tend to remind them about their grades – not about reaching out to a lonely kid at school. They said that they were allowed to stop doing things like volunteering at a soup kitchen when they didn’t like it, but weren’t allowed to stop completing their homework. They remember rewards for good grades but not as much for service to others.
The survey is challenging. Who doesn’t want their children to be happy and successful? For that matter, who doesn’t want to be happy and successful themselves?
But as the authors of the study noted, a healthy society depends on adults who will at pivotal times, put the common good over their own self-interests.[i]
I took a couple of things from this study… First it made me think about what I value most and how I acknowledge those values in others.
Secondly it made me appreciate parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers and coaches, who are willing to go against the grain and let the young people they love know that how we love and care for others is the true measure of success, and that caring for others will then bring happiness as well.