Bringing a Healthy Attitude to Difference

The Childpeace staff invests in supporting all of our families in the challenging task of navigating a complex world. While we master the Montessori approach, we also search for and share ideas that align with, and enhance our work.

My hope is that each person in our community, whether student, parent or teacher, brings a healthy attitude to difference, whenever and wherever they encounter it.

  • Are we able to navigate the world with empathy? 
  • Can we consider and solve issues without a sense of entitlement? 
These abilities are cornerstones to having a healthy attitude towards difference.

When I bumped into the message below, I knew I wanted to share it with all of you. Thanks to A Mighty Girl for always bringing a positive message. I hope you find this as encouraging as I did.

Happy Friday, try to take part of this rainy, “stay at home” weekend to ponder these thought provoking ideas.

Sue Pritzker, Head of School

Posted on October 14, 2016

"Nearly all of us have bang-our-head-against-the-wall stories about our kids acting entitled. We’ve tried what feels like everything to stop it, and we still feel as if we’re not quite getting it right," writes Karen Weese in the Washington Post. “But there’s a young and fascinating field of research called behavioral economics that explores the sometimes irrational ways we all make decisions and think about the world. Maybe if we understand a little more about the instinctive, irrational quirks of our kids’ minds, we’ll be better equipped to raise kinder, less-entitled kids.” In her article, Weese talks to both experts and parents about what behavioral economics can do to help us teach kids empathy instead of entitlement. “Just talking about ‘How do you think that person is feeling?’ is so important,” says parenting educator Amy McCready. “It’s a way of un-centering our kids’ universe and getting them thinking outside of themselves.”

Helping kids better understand the cognitive biases that influence our understanding of the world is an important part of fostering their empathy for others. One common behavior called the “fundamental attribution error,” for example, prompts people to attribute negative actions by others to being intrinsic characteristics of those individuals; whereas, we consider our own negative behaviors to be the result of outside forces or accident. One example of this tendency is when food is slow getting to your table at a restaurant and the kids blame the “terrible” server. “[Parents] can point out that maybe the kitchen is backed up and she’s doing her best. Maybe she’s covering extra tables for someone who called in sick, or this is her second job and she’s been up since 4 a.m.," explains Weese.

Another common tendency that can lead to challenges is the fact that, according to Weese, "behavioral research shows that humans can become acclimated to almost anything if they’re exposed to it frequently." This tendency known as “hedonic adaptation” turns repeated treats (like an ice cream stop after a soccer game) into an expectation. Along these same lines, another behavior called “availability bias” causes us "to overestimate the prevalence of something if we see many examples of it" (“EVERYBODY at school has an iPad!”). These behaviors can make it difficult for children, especially those in affluent families, to appreciate their good fortune. To tackle this with his own children, behavioral expert Josh Wright says, "We’re always telling them: ‘You know that’s not normal, right? It’s just one little slice of the world.’" He also takes his children to volunteer regularly at a local soup kitchen so they gain a deeper understanding of their economic privilege and greater empathy for those in need.

Finally, research shows that social transactions are far more motivating than financial ones: kids will be more motivated by praise and feeling like they’ve contributed than by money. For this reason, McCready recommends that parents don’t pay kids for chores. Rather, she recommends that they frame chores as their children's contributions to the functioning of the family: “I know cleaning the bathroom isn’t fun, but if we all get to work, we’ll have the house clean by lunchtime... Thanks for the help!” The result, she says, is more than a clean house: it’s unentitled and empathetic kids and adults.

To read all of Karen Weese’s advice on The Washington Post, visit http://wapo.st/2cPNxcK

Amy McCready is the author of the excellent new parenting book: “The ‘Me, Me, Me’ Epidemic: A Step-By-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Overentitled World” at http://www.amightygirl.com/the-me-me-me-epidemic

For two more recommended books for parents about raising empathetic kids, check out “The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money” http://www.amightygirl.com/the-opposite-of-spoiled and “UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in our All-About Me World” http://www.amightygirl.com/unselfie

For two wonderful books that help foster children's compassion for others by giving them a visual way to think about kindness, we recommend "Have You Filled a Bucket Today: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids" for ages 4 to 8 http://www.amightygirl.com/have-you-filled-a-bucket-today and its sequel "Growing Up With A Bucket Full Of Happiness" for ages 9 to 12 http://www.amightygirl.com/growing-up-with-a-bucket-full-of…

And, for books to talk to children about poverty in local communities, check out our blog post “Cultivating Compassion: Books About Financial Hardship Close to Home” at http://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=10049