Aside from giving birth to my own children, nothing provides me with more delight and a creative high than producing a new book. To find out why I decided, after 25 years of writing exclusively for kids, to write a book for adults, and why every parent and educator at least ought to explore Teaching Kids to Be Good People, please read the introduction.
Obviously not all teachers are parents, but all parents are teachers. That’s convenient because good character traits, like empathy and respect, are teachable skills that need to be learned at home as well as at school. When we teach kids to be good people we help the world become a safer, saner, more equitable place for all of us. Nothing is more important than that!
But these are tough times for character educators. I know because I’ve been working in schools with students, teachers, and parents for more than 30 years as well as online since 1997. The job is getting harder. The values promoted by mass media work against us. What passes for entertainment is frequently mean-spirited. Character assassination in public discourse is the air we breathe, and the resulting pollution is a hazard to our well-being. It’s a huge problem, but what can we do?
When our kids plug in, which is most of the time, they encounter few positive adult role models. Online and off, our culture frequently ignores or rewards cruelty. This is why our children desperately need us to do a better job mentoring them in the direction of respect and kindness.
Our kids are good kids, but they are constantly challenged by the less-than-compassionate standards of their peers with whom they are mind-linked 24/7. Today’s teens suffer from status anxiety at levels no other generation has endured. This compels them to do whatever it takes to fit in, including things they are not particularly proud of. Despite these ubiquitous challenges I am confident we can teach our kids to be good people who actively seek opportunities to help others and who have the social courage to act on their good intentions.
We parent-educators are gardeners. We plant seeds and offer nurturing lessons that our kids can internalize. But we are not our children’s only influencers. By rededicating ourselves to teaching our kids to be good people, we provide them with the tools to do the right thing while we’re right there beside them and when they’re on their own. Whether they actually do it, is their choice. But at least we’ll know we’ve done our part well.
To help on our parenting journey, I’ve written this very personal and pragmatic guide that includes essays, podcasts, prompts, tools, questions, answers, and self-assessment quizzes all for the purpose of teaching kids to be good people.
How do you define a “good person?” That’s what I wanted to find out, so I crowdsourced the answer by posting the question. I received hundreds of responses. Eight concepts kept reappearing: Emotional intelligence, ethics, help, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, acceptance, and social courage—all essential, teachable skills. This book will help you teach them to your children or students. Hopefully, we’ll become so engaged in this process that we will inspire all of our children to become part of the solution.