19/06/2015 15:27 BST | Updated 19/06/2015 15:59 BST

Harvard Psychologists Have Revealed Seven Crucial Ways To Raise Good And 'Caring' Children

Everyone wants their child to be good and caring, don't they?

If that means your child isn't going to have a tantrum on the floor of a supermarket, or have another mum tell you how good they are - then it's seriously worth it.

Psychologists at Harvard University have been doing research into human development and have been studying what it takes to raise "caring children" over the past few years.

They state on their report: "Research in human development clearly shows that the seeds of empathy, caring, and compassion are present from early in life, but that to become caring, ethical people, children need adults to help them at every stage of childhood to nurture these seeds into full development."

caring children

The psychologists said that parents should work to cultivate children's concern and help them build stronger and healthier relationships in their future.

Within the study, there were seven main strategies that seemed to lead to "caring, respectful and ethical" children in later life.

But if you want their full list of tips here they are:

1. Work to develop caring, loving relationships with your kids

Children are caring and respectful when they are treated that way, so when our children feel loved they become more receptive to their parents' values.

The psychologists suggest that showing affection, respecting their individual personalities, taking a genuine interest in their lives, talking about things that matter, and affirming their efforts and achievements could help achieve this.

They suggest having regular time with your children and having meaningful conversations where questions are asked such as "What did you accomplish today that you feel good about?”

2. Be a strong moral role model and mentor

Children watch our actions and the actions of people they respect, to they will listen to what we say and what we do.

The psychologists suggest we should pay close attention to whether we are being honest, fair, and caring in our everyday actions, as well as making sure we manage our emotions effectively when our children are present.

If you are exhausted or stressed, does this affect how you act with your children?

The recommendation is to regularly engage with the community and consider doing this with your child, as well as promoting honesty and taking care of yourselves and one another.

3. Make caring for others a priority and set high ethical expectations

It is important that children hear from their parents that caring about others is a top priority - this might be something you think but not something your children are aware of.

happy children

The study showed that honouring expectations, doing the right thing even when it is hard and standing up for fairness principles is a good way of achieving this.

They suggest instead of saying to children “The most important thing is that you’re happy,” you might say “The most important thing is that you’re kind and that you’re happy.”

4. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude

To practice being caring and grateful, children need to be given opportunities. The study showed that people who engage in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous and compassionate.

Having daily repetition of helping someone else was suggested by the psychologists, and it can be as simple as helping a friend with homework, pitching in around the house, having a classroom job, or reflecting on who your children appreciate.

They suggested that you should not praise children for their routine help, but for uncommon acts of kindness. Routine actions that are expected are more likely to become ingrained in every day actions. contribute to their lives.


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5. Expand your child's circle of concern

Children will often empathise with their family and their small circle of friends, but what about other people?

The psychologists from Harvard said: "Our challenge is help children learn to have empathy and care about someone outside that circle, such as a new child in class, someone who doesn’t speak their language, the school custodian, or someone who lives in a distant country."

They said you encourage cildren to consider the perspectives and feelings of those who may be vulnerable, such as a new child at school or a child experiencing some family trouble.

Give children some simple ideas for taking action, like comforting a classmate who was teased or reaching out to a new student.

6. Promote children's ability to be ethical thinkers and positive change-makers in their communities

Children are naturally interested in ethical questions such as those literal questions they might ask you sometimes: "what does that mean?" "Why do I have to do that?".

However, it is suggested that parents could help by listening to them and helping them through answers rather than just giving them an answer.

7. Help children develop self-control and manage feelings effectively

Teaching children that it is okay to feel angry, upset or down is important, but it's more important to teach them how to deal with these.

Psychologists suggest that you should help them idenitfy their feelings such as frustration, sadness and anger and encourage them to talk to you about why they’re feeling that way.

Use these three easy steps to help them: stop, take a deep breath through the nose and exhale through the mouth, and count to five: "Try it when your child is calm. Then, when you see her getting upset, remind her about the steps and do them together."

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