Father of three child and family psychologist Richard Weissbourd teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and School of Education. His new book ‘The Parents We Mean To Be’ argues that parents have a much greater influence on their children’s moral lives than peers or popular culture.
Serving as a Scoutmaster involves a fair amount of exposure to many different styles of parenting and I believe that Weissbourd’s ideas form a solid approach. He discusses that preoccupation with achievement, superficial happiness and attempts to befriend our children often misdirect a parent’s attempt to develop moral, balanced, functioning human beings. I was drawn to his ideas because Scouting meets Weissbourd’s prescription for good parenting. His book is available at Amazon
What matters most as a parent is not whether my wife and I are ‘perfect’ role models or how much we talk about values, but the hundreds of ways – as living, breathing, imperfect human beings—we influence our children in the complex, messy relationships we have with them day to day.”
Many parents are narrowly focused on their children’s happiness and believe that happiness and self-esteem are at the root of morality. We may be the first generation of parents in history who hold that belief. We think that a child who feels good, and who feels good about herself, is more likely to be good.
Historically, parents have thought that suffering, burdens, and sacrifices were an important basis of morality, that through suffering children learned empathy. But in many day-to-day
ways, we as parents place our children’s happiness above their caring about others. We are too quick to let our kids write off friends they find annoying. We fail to insist that they return phone calls from friends, or give credit to other children for their achievements, or reach out to friendless children at the playground. Or we fail tointerrupt our children when they talk too much when they’re around other kids or adults.”
Morality is comprised of many attributes—courage, honesty, kindness, a sense of justice, moral reasoning, etc.—and there are many different ways that adults can promote these qualities. We can
model appropriate moral behavior, help our children register kindness and unkindness in the world around them, define clearly their responsibilities toward others, listen responsively to their moral dilemmas and questions, hold them to high moral standards, and develop in them from an early age the habit of attending to and caring about others.
Available at Amazon