6 Strategies for Raising a Kind and Caring Teen

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A recent survey conducted by Harvard University’s Making Caring Common Project found that many of today’s young people value happiness and personal achievement above caring for others. Although it’s important to many families to raise a teen who is striving for success, most parents acknowledge the importance of raising a compassionate and caring teen. (Read more about the disconnect between what parents are trying to teach and what teens are actually learning in this article – Survey Reveals Most Teens are Getting Mixed Messages About Parents’ Values).

Raising a kind and compassionate teen in today’s world takes some extra effort. The following tips about how to raise a kind and caring child are adapted from the Making Caring Common’s suggestions:

1. Practice Caring for Other People

Teens can learn how to become more caring about the well-being of others, but it requires practice. Daily repetition is the best way to teach your teen how to behave more caring toward other people. Just like you might encourage your teen to practice playing a sport or playing a musical instrument regularly, treating others with kindness takes practice. Look for daily opportunities to help others by recognizing and meeting the needs of your friends, neighbors, and family members.

2. Expand Your Teen’s Circle of Concern

It can be easy for teens to have concerns about their immediate families and closest friends. However, it’s important to teach teens to recognize concerns of people outside their immediate circles.

That may include the new kid at school who can’t find his locker, an elderly neighbor who struggles to mow the lawn or a child in another country who doesn’t have clean water to drink.  Talk to your teen about global issues and people with have unmet needs. Discuss the courage it takes to approach someone outside of the immediate circle to offer assistance.

3. Serve as a Strong Moral Role Model

Teens learn a lot more from what you do, rather than what you say.  If you tell your child that it’s important to be kind to others, it’s essential that you demonstrate kindness in your daily life. Serve the community through various projects and perform acts of kindness for others regularly. Also, acknowledge your mistakes and your flaws and discuss how your behavior affects other people.

4. Teach Your Teen Healthy Ways to Manage Negative Emotions

Teens who struggle to cope with uncomfortable feelings, like anger, envy, and shame, may lash out at other people. It’s important for teens to learn healthy ways to deal with those feelings in productive ways. Teach problem-solving skills and conflict resolution skills. Additionally, hold frequent discussions about feelings and various strategies to stay calm and deal with emotions effectively.

5. Make Caring for Others a High Priority

Expect your teen to help out with household chores and to perform acts of kindness around the house. Hold daily conversations about the caring and uncaring acts you witness in your daily lives. Instead of telling your teen, “I just want you to be happy,” say, “I just want you to be kind and happy.” When your teen is making decisions that impact other people – like whether to go to a birthday party or quit a sports team – discuss how that decision could affect other people, not just what your teen wants to do.

6. Help Your Teen Become an Ethical Thinker

Many teens want to do good deeds but they struggle to find the courage to “do the right thing” at times. Discuss ethical issues that your teen is likely to encounter in school regularly. For example, discuss standing up for a peer who is picked on or befriending a new student even if it isn’t the “popular” thing to do. Talk about opportunities to become a leader who fights against social injustice at school and in the community.

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