"It is better to be kind than right," so goes author and motivational speaker Wayne Dyer's famous quote. And as one gets older, you realize how much truth there is to this quote. Unfortunately that's the catch — age — which is why our children need to learn it from us.
When the kids are young, their dreams consist of professional ambitions ("Gusto kong maging engineer!") and maybe milestones they are targeting ("Pangarap kong makapagpagawa ng bahay para sa pamilya ko"), but to be kind? No one really aspires for it.
However, perhaps many would if they knew that there is a connection between leadership success and kindness, according to this 2007 study. Yes, kindness and empathy are critical for success in the workplace.
The research studied a sample of 6,371 leaders from 38 countries, each of whom had at least three subordinates. These subordinates were asked to rate their managers on four areas: sensitivity, compassion, interest in the hopes and dreams of other people, and willingness to help an employee. Conversely, the manager's boss also rated his job performance.
Part of the conclusion of the study reads:
"This study found that the ability to understand what others are feeling is a skill that clearly contributes to effective leadership. In some cultures, the connection between empathy and performance is particularly striking, placing an even greater value on empathy as a leadership skill.
"... empathetic leaders are assets to organizations, in part, because they are able to effectively build and maintain relationships — a critical part of leading organizations anywhere in the world."
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"Fortunately, empathy is not a fixed trait. It can be learned," wrote Shapiro in a 2002 paper quoted in the study. So, mom and dad, we got work to do!
How do you raise kinder, more empathetic kids?
1. Make kindness a non-negotiable trait at home.
Naturally, what you allow at home is what your kids will learn. If kindness is very important to you as parents, then it should be present in your day-to-day life, both in the big and small things.
2. Talk about kindness.
Words are powerful, and the more you talk about kindness in your home, the more likely your kids will imbibe it. Recognize a good deed when you spot it, and discuss acts of kindness you can each do. And you can never give your kids enough reminders about how to treat others with respect.
3. Let your child be involved.
Kids start out to be naturally self-centered. As they grow up, "it's our job to help them extend that circle out to include that new foreign-language student, the elderly neighbor, or those less fortunate" as their parents, says Scott Mautz, author of Find the Fire and Make It Matter.
While they are learning about themselves, it is important to also learn about others and see the bigger picture; to understand that they are as much an individual as they are a part of a whole, and that their actions and decisions impact everyone else around them.
4. Teach the kids how to manage negative feelings.
It is natural to feel angry, jealous, or annoyed once in a while, but it's how you deal with that emotion that makes the difference. Their knee-jerk reaction when faced with such a situation may be to throw a fit or yell at someone, but teaching them the tried-and-tested method of stop, breathe, and count may save them from something they might regret later on.
More than what the study suggests, it is important to teach kindness as a way of life in our family. Do it until it becomes a habit. Remember that good-hearted children are a blessing, and that being kind, in itself, is a reward.