Raising Children Who Care



Fatherhood and Parenting
Author Steve Biddulph

Steve Biddulph stresses the importance of raising caring children and relates a wonderful story of what a leading New Zealand company did to turn around one of the country's worst performing schools.
It’s been a busy month for Australian parents as we plug our children back into the education system for another year, and hope it will all work out.

A friend's daughter started at kindergarten last week – the first year of primary school, and he was pleased to find that the school had a "buddy system" – which meant that some older girls were assigned to look after her during recess. "That's really sweet," he thought. But on day three the gloss went off a little: the older girls had asked the five year old to "Bring her pocket money along to school, so they could look after it for her!"

Taking money off children half your age is a minor example of something we see every day: children – and adults – who just don't care, who will use you and abuse you. A big part of parenthood, and manhood, involves making sure that this doesn't happen.

Robert Carkhuff once said, "We are born only with the potential to be human", meaning we have work to do. Children are naturally loving – we have all seen children deeply distressed by seeing even a glimpse of suffering. But they are also naturally selfish and vindictive – who has not been poked in the eye by an angry toddler, or had to pull siblings apart from murderous intent!! Kids need our help to become safe and loving.

All the monsters in the world today – child abusers, murderers, and so on – were all made that way by parents and communities that didn't care. If no one cares about you when you are young and vulnerable, how can you ever learn to care for anyone else?

This week I would like to share just one instance of men and women caring for kids, which is both inspiring, practical, and useful.

A company in New Zealand was wanting to do something for its local community. Nothing altruistic about this – just good business sense. The usual thing might be to endow a youth centre or build a park. They were persuaded by some wise souls to "adopt a local school" in the run-down neighbourhood where their plant was situated, and to contribute not dollars, but time. Every employee of that firm was given the opportunity to go to the school and offer coaching one-to-one to a child who needed help with maths, reading, or whatever. They could do this for two hours a week in work time. The school coordinated the program and the firm donated the manpower and womanpower. The result was that at-risk children got two visits a week from their own long-term special adult, in school time and work time. The effect was so significant that over two years, the school's national testing scores improved markedly. And that was the least important outcome – think of the self-esteem, mentoring, and the long-term outcomes in turning kids towards positive lifestyles.

Ever since hearing about this project, I have been abuzz with the implications. How much could we change if we took the "do-gooder" energies of our service clubs, and corporations, and so on, and built human contact instead of or as well as chequebook approaches to making kids lives more caring and valued? It is basically the best idea I have heard of in a very long time. Perhaps it would work in your organization? Be sure to send us a thread if you have any experience or questions.

Have a great month!

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