Most parents want their kids to be successful, and they will try to equip them for a competitive world. Often, the prevailing model of success is defined by the drive to acquire. In general, our culture views people who command power or amass wealth as successful without regard to their social behavior.
So where does kindness fit within this model of success? Experts say that teaching kids to be kind has a surprisingly positive impact on whether they will be successful.
Competition Among Kids
Competitive behavior can be a good thing when it’s used to motivate people to achieve higher goals.
Competition helps to fuel innovation. It drives organizations to strive for more efficient operations. It can even spark joy and instill confidence in kids when they’re competing in sports and other contests.
However, competition is often seen as an end in itself. Rather than using a healthy competitive spirit to encourage valuable achievements, modern society has become fixated on winning for the sake of winning. Obsession with winning is a learned behavior and is not healthy for kids or adults.
When Winning Is Stressed Over Kindness
Adults frequently remind children that the highest virtue is kindness. Parents tell their children that sharing is more important than winning and that it’s better to have lots of friends than lots of trophies. But the behavior children observe in their parents and peers tells a different story.
Children are often showered with praise upon winning a competition or passing a difficult test. Rarely do adults express this same level of admiration when a child shares their lunch or helps a fellow student understand a lesson.
Because children learn from observing their parent’s behavior, the emphasis that adults place on winning is inevitably transferred to children.
Most parents derive personal gratification from their children’s accomplishments and feel directly to blame for their failures. Because of this, parents make it clear through their behavior—intentional, or not—that their child’s personal achievement is more important to them than anything else. And that is the lesson many kids are learning according to a Harvard study.
How Teaching Kids To Be Kind Leads to Success
Parents may be surprised to learn that kindness does not detract from achievement and success. In fact it can contribute to it. Teaching children to value kindness and to interact positively with peers gives them a competitive advantage over children who focus entirely on their own success.
A study of more htan 50,000 business professionals referenced in the Harvard Business Review found that likeability is one of the keys to effective leadership. The study showed that people who score low on a rating of “likeability” have only a 1-in-2,000 chance of being rated as effective leaders. This type of research suggests that kindness is not an add-on to be thought of once we’ve reached the top. Instead, it’s a fundamental component of getting there in the first place.
“Quite a bit of evidence suggests that children who help others end up achieving more than those who don’t,” according to Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. “Boys who are rated as helpful by their kindergarten teacher earn more money 30 years later. Middle-school students who help, cooperate, and share with their peers also excel …”
The benefits of kindness are realized not only in adult life. Compassion and social engagement also help children to be more successful in the immediate term.
Kindness Is the Key
Parents often get swept up in the idea that success depends on winning and that social relationships are a distraction. This seeming contradiction between what makes a person kind and what makes them successful can cause parents to feel it’s impossible to raise a child to be both.
Many parents worry that an emphasis on sharing and cooperation will make their children less competitive in later life. Even though kindness may lead to greater happiness and fulfilling social relationships, the survival instinct wins out.
The truth is that raising your kids to value kindness is not at odds with their ability to succeed. In fact, teaching kindness actually contributes to success in all aspects of society.