Parents, Teachers See Unkind World for Their Children, Survey Finds

Parents, Teachers See Unkind World for Their Children, Survey Finds

Seventy percent of parents and 86 percent of teachers "often worry" that the world is an unkind place for their children and students, a survey commissioned by Sesame Workshop finds.

Based on surveys of more than two thousand parents and five hundred  pre-k and elementary school teachers, the report, "K Is for Kind: A National Survey On Kindness and Kids," found that 73 percent of the parents and 78 percent of the teachers said being kind to others was more important for their children's and students' future success than academic achievement, while 84 percent of teachers and 81 percent of parents agreed that "people need to be responsible for helping their own children and families and other people in society."

At the same time, the survey raises questions about the nature of kindness. While 88 percent and 59 percent of parents said their own children were "kind" or "very kind," and 73 percent of teachers said all or most of the students in their class were kind, lower percentages of parents and teachers said their kids were "very thoughtful" (46 percent,  52 percent) or "very helpful" (40 percent, 65 percent). Parents also rated politeness as more important than being considerate or helpful, with more than half ranking manners as more important than empathy. Indeed, while 75 percent of the surveyed parents said they talked to their child about seeing things from other people's points of view at least a few times a week, only 34 percent of the surveyed teachers said all or most parents were raising their children to be empathetic and kind.

"This [finding] suggests that we need to focus more on practicing the actual behaviors involved in being kind, not just encouraging an abstract concept of kindness," said Jennifer Kotler Clarke, vice president of research and evaluation at Sesame Workshop.

"Many years of research have shown that social-emotional skills — like empathy, kindness, and social skills — are critical to success across a variety of different measures as children develop," said Stephanie Jones, the Marie and Max Kargman Associate Professor and co-director of the Making Caring Common Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. "These findings can help spur much needed conversations about how to raise caring and empathic children."