Harvard psychologist RichardWeissbourd argues incisively that parents—not peers, not television—are the primary shapers of their children’s moral lives. And yet, it is parents’ lack of self-awareness and confused priorities that are dangerously undermining children’s development.
Through the author’s own original field research, including hundreds of rich, revealing conversations with children, parents, teachers, and coaches, a surprising picture emerges.
Parents’ intense focus on their children’s happiness is turning many children into self-involved, fragile conformists.The suddenly widespread desire of parents to be closer to their children—a heartening trend in many ways—often undercuts kids’morality.Our fixation with being great parents—and our need for our children to reflect that greatness—can actually make them feel ashamed for failing to measure up. Finally, parents’ interactions with coaches and teachers—and coaches’ and teachers’ interactions with children—are critical arenas for nurturing, or eroding, children’s moral lives.
Weissbourd’s ultimately compassionate message—based on compelling new research—is that the intense, crisis-filled, and profoundly joyous process of raising a child can be a powerful force for our own moral development.
Harvard psychologist Weissbourd (The Vulnerable Child) delivers a direct, digestible wakeup call about the need for better moral instruction for children. Enlisting a battery of researchers to conduct interviews with students, teachers and parents mostly in the Boston area and the South, Weissbourd asserts quite forcefully and repetitively that by abdicating moral authority to popular culture and children's peers, by shielding children from their destructive behavior, by letting fathers off the hook and by insisting on children's happiness rather than their goodness, adults are failing their own children. Weissbourd looks at the role of shame in engendering children's destructive acts, and how it can result from parents' excessive expectations and fears of their children's emotions. Promoting an elusive notion of happiness sacrifices important lessons in empathy, appreciation and caring, while parents' self-interest continually erodes the basis for community. The author advocates checking parents' overweening drive for achievement in our children, refraining from wanting to be their best friend and cultivating a healthy idealism. He cites a woeful lack of self-awareness by parents and the need for building alliances with teachers and other parents. His chapter on the morally mature sports parent is a sober reminder of why we want our children to play sports. Moral strengths and failures among different cultures are particularly explored in this strongly worded work that barely grazes the tip of the iceberg.
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All Parents will benefit from this book
If you are a parent it is a responsibility to read this book. You will raise your awareness about things your are more than likely doing today that are probably having the opposite impact you intend on your child.