photo: Grace Wong via Flickr

You cheer for the goals scored and applaud the straight-A report card, but when was the last time you gave your kiddo kudos for just being nice? It turns out teaching kids to be kind and compassionate isn’t as simple as telling them to play nice. Keep reading to learn the secrets to raising kids that care.

After conducting a national survey of 10,000 middle school and high school students, Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd of the Making Caring Common project found that most kids, regardless of race, class, or culture, valued personal achievement over the happiness of others. Only 20 percent thought caring for others was a top priority.

So how can you shift those priorities? According to Weissboard it’s less about what you preach and more about what you practice. In other words, instead of demanding that kids share, make a point of being a good sharer yourself. Here are a few of the steps the Making Caring Common project has come up with to help parents raise good people:

1. Develop a loving relationship with your kids.
This one seems like a no-brainer: All parents love their kids and most want to spend as much time with them as possible. The key is making the most of that time. Make a point to carve out engaging quality time on a regular basis, (in other words TV time together doesn’t count).

2. Be a strong role model.
Be more aware of your own behaviors and the power they have to influence your kids. It’s not enough to just tell your kids to be nice and to share, you need to do those things yourself. Children are more likely to watch behaviors and repeat a parent’s actions than just simply follow directions.

3. Prioritize caring for others.
Make a point of showing your kids that you value their caring and empathy as much as their other achievements, like academics and physical abilities. Praise kids not only for their performance, but also for how well they handle situations with their peers.

4. Provide opportunities to practice caring.
Putting big concepts into practical situations is a great way to help kids understand the importance of those ideas and how to act on them. Make time every day to talk about what you are grateful for and encourage your kids to do the same.

5. Expand your child’s circle of concern.
Most kids care about their immediate family and friends, but showing concern for the well-being of others outside of that small group might be more of a challenge. Teach kids how to be considerate of feelings by talking about stories you hear in the news to talk about other people’s hardships.

Do you practice these five techniques? Tell us how it’s going in the commments!