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The Parents We Mean To Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children's Moral and Emotional Development

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Harvard psychologist RichardWeissbourd argues incisively that parents—not peers, not television—are the primary shapers of their children’s moral lives. And yet, it is parents’ lack of self-awareness and confused priorities that are dangerously undermining children’s development. Through the author’s own original field research, including hundreds of rich, revealing convers Harvard psychologist RichardWeissbourd argues incisively that parents—not peers, not television—are the primary shapers of their children’s moral lives. And yet, it is parents’ lack of self-awareness and confused priorities that are dangerously undermining children’s development. Through the author’s own original field research, including hundreds of rich, revealing conversations with children, parents, teachers, and coaches, a surprising picture emerges. Parents’ intense focus on their children’s happiness is turning many children into self-involved, fragile conformists.The suddenly widespread desire of parents to be closer to their children—a heartening trend in many ways—often undercuts kids’morality.Our fixation with being great parents—and our need for our children to reflect that greatness—can actually make them feel ashamed for failing to measure up. Finally, parents’ interactions with coaches and teachers—and coaches’ and teachers’ interactions with children—are critical arenas for nurturing, or eroding, children’s moral lives. Weissbourd’s ultimately compassionate message—based on compelling new research—is that the intense, crisis-filled, and profoundly joyous process of raising a child can be a powerful force for our own moral development.


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Harvard psychologist RichardWeissbourd argues incisively that parents—not peers, not television—are the primary shapers of their children’s moral lives. And yet, it is parents’ lack of self-awareness and confused priorities that are dangerously undermining children’s development. Through the author’s own original field research, including hundreds of rich, revealing convers Harvard psychologist RichardWeissbourd argues incisively that parents—not peers, not television—are the primary shapers of their children’s moral lives. And yet, it is parents’ lack of self-awareness and confused priorities that are dangerously undermining children’s development. Through the author’s own original field research, including hundreds of rich, revealing conversations with children, parents, teachers, and coaches, a surprising picture emerges. Parents’ intense focus on their children’s happiness is turning many children into self-involved, fragile conformists.The suddenly widespread desire of parents to be closer to their children—a heartening trend in many ways—often undercuts kids’morality.Our fixation with being great parents—and our need for our children to reflect that greatness—can actually make them feel ashamed for failing to measure up. Finally, parents’ interactions with coaches and teachers—and coaches’ and teachers’ interactions with children—are critical arenas for nurturing, or eroding, children’s moral lives. Weissbourd’s ultimately compassionate message—based on compelling new research—is that the intense, crisis-filled, and profoundly joyous process of raising a child can be a powerful force for our own moral development.

30 review for The Parents We Mean To Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children's Moral and Emotional Development

  1. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    This is not a how-to parenting book. I probably agreed with most of what I read in this book, about how we sometimes undermine our children's development even with good intentions. I kept reading to find the part of the book that suggested how to use those good intentions to encourage moral development. It wasn't there. At best, the suggestions were broad or vague. I don't think I came away with many ideas of how to be a better parent, other than to watch out for the things I'm not supposed to d This is not a how-to parenting book. I probably agreed with most of what I read in this book, about how we sometimes undermine our children's development even with good intentions. I kept reading to find the part of the book that suggested how to use those good intentions to encourage moral development. It wasn't there. At best, the suggestions were broad or vague. I don't think I came away with many ideas of how to be a better parent, other than to watch out for the things I'm not supposed to do. A few highlights for me: p46-47: Weissbourd discusses that self-esteem does not lead to happiness and that happiness does not necessarily lead to goodness. "We should tell our children to be moral because it is moral, because it is vital to our collective good, and because the well-being of others is as important as their own." He also quotes John Stuart Mill: "Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness." p102: Weissbourd discusses our own development as parents. "As parents and mentors, it's vital to see ourselves not as static role models but as imperfect human beings, continually developing, in our dynamic relationships with our children, our own moral and mentoring capabilities." Then he quotes Whitney Young: "There is nothing noble in being superior to someone else. The only real nobility is in being superior to your former self." p198: He puts into words something that has been on my mind recently. "To a large extent, the focus on the pursuit of self-interest enshrined in our Declaration of Independence has dangerously mixed in the last forty years with the therapeutic culture. We are living in a time when Americans are more interested not only in their inner states but in their own minute-to-minute well-being than any population in any country in human history...."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    This is a nice new (i.e. publ'd in 2009) contribution to the literature on parenting, moral and ethical development, social-emotional development, and/or even character development. This genre includes better-known titles like Wendy Mogel's seminal Blessings of a Skinned Knee and others. But Wiessbourd's contribution should be able to hang in there and stand the test of time with the best of 'em. I can see us using it as a parent education text or prompt in my school. It's very readable, not too l This is a nice new (i.e. publ'd in 2009) contribution to the literature on parenting, moral and ethical development, social-emotional development, and/or even character development. This genre includes better-known titles like Wendy Mogel's seminal Blessings of a Skinned Knee and others. But Wiessbourd's contribution should be able to hang in there and stand the test of time with the best of 'em. I can see us using it as a parent education text or prompt in my school. It's very readable, not too long, and includes some powerful, pithy, memorable turns of phrase to help keep one (me? you? us?) reading.... Despite it's fairly niche-oriented, laser-like book title, Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd's The Parents We Mean To Be isn't just for parents' eyes only. Rather, its subtitle aptly points toward a broader relevant audience for his important insights about "How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children's Moral and Emotional Development." There is as much here for educators as parents, in other words. We all have a stake--as well as crucial, complementary roles to play--in facilitating our students' ethical and social-emotional development. Professor Weissbourd offers here a common-sensical, research-based analysis of the policies, priorities, and practices of parents and teachers most--or least--conducive to nurturing our children's character and moral development. He understands the pressures that "the achievement craze" places on kids, their teachers and parents. And he documents how our culture's fetishizing of happiness often deprives both children and adults of the opportunity to learn from adversity, develop resilience, etc. Weissbourd's study is based on field research in representative schools. It's also well-written, and eminently accessible to even lay readers. It's an important new contribution to a burgeoning field.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mason

    I enjoyed reading this book as someone who currently has the chance to mentor many younger people while concurrently struggling to define my own moral self. Every day is full of situations rife with moralistic decisions ans issues and the ways we pass our own morals on to other people are often more subtle than we realize. The focus groups and research that support the opinions in this book are strong, and have therefore resulted in a coherent read that conflicts with common sense only here and I enjoyed reading this book as someone who currently has the chance to mentor many younger people while concurrently struggling to define my own moral self. Every day is full of situations rife with moralistic decisions ans issues and the ways we pass our own morals on to other people are often more subtle than we realize. The focus groups and research that support the opinions in this book are strong, and have therefore resulted in a coherent read that conflicts with common sense only here and there - and when it does it's rather enlightening. Though I don't feel like I necessarily deserve to be a moral mentor I realize that I am one during ever interaction I am a part of, especially as an educator. That's the moral of the story!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mo

    3.5 Took time to read this one, as it necessitated a close read at times, and worked for some reflection on the state of everything right now, and community, and self. Nice to read a book about morals that was not tied to being religious. P46 from john Stuart mill “Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness.” Also, p47 happiness does not lead to goodness and goodness does not lead to happiness. Be moral, because it is moral, “vital to our collect 3.5 Took time to read this one, as it necessitated a close read at times, and worked for some reflection on the state of everything right now, and community, and self. Nice to read a book about morals that was not tied to being religious. P46 from john Stuart mill “Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness.” Also, p47 happiness does not lead to goodness and goodness does not lead to happiness. Be moral, because it is moral, “vital to our collective good, and because the well-being of others is as important as their own.” P102 from Whitney Young “ There is nothing noble in being superior to someone else. The only real nobility is in being superior to your former self.” P197-8 “ as [Jerome] Kagan suggests, high-profile scandals like Enron [ha! Or one could say the family currently in power], in which individuals shamelessly pursued their own self-interests, can dangerously reinforce adults’ perception that they need to vigilantly protect what’s theirs, above other considerations...”

  5. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Another purchase prompted by hearing a radio interview. Interesting, provocative, cogent. Instantly made me talk to James about who is and how he can go anywhere! Makes me think about how I parent and teach. Especially about unspoken expectations. I also liked the notion that what children need is not so much an understanding of right v. wrong, but the ability to do right even when it is the harder choice.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jack Cheng

    This book focuses on how we teach children to become moral beings, defined by the author as people who ask moral questions, see perspectives that are not their own, feel responsibility for others and maintain good relationships. Weissbourd's prescription for how we teach children morality is two-fold: teach by example and exercising moderation in all of our parenting behaviors. The best way to teach is by example, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who has changed his behaviors in some ways upon be This book focuses on how we teach children to become moral beings, defined by the author as people who ask moral questions, see perspectives that are not their own, feel responsibility for others and maintain good relationships. Weissbourd's prescription for how we teach children morality is two-fold: teach by example and exercising moderation in all of our parenting behaviors. The best way to teach is by example, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who has changed his behaviors in some ways upon becoming a parent. Some important points in the book are that we should recognize our children's moral development as fluid and not get fixated on "bad kids" or feel like the teenage years are the end point in that process. Similarly, we should acknowledge that our own moral development is a work in progress and occasionally give voice to that, explaining our choices, right or wrong and showing that we as parents can also experience growth. As for moderation, I think this is one reason I like this book so much. Instead of veering in one direction or another -- touching is good, therefore never let go of your child! -- Weissbourd points out how various behaviors that seem positive -- praise, an emphasis on children's happiness and self-esteem -- can backfire if they are excessive. Children become egocentric and selfish if they think their own happiness is paramount and they become paralyzed with failure if they never encounter it until their twenties. The chapter on sports was one of my favorites. On the one hand, there are crazy sports parents who live through their kids. On the other hand are parents who downplay competition and try not to care at all. Weissbourd points out that competition is fun in context and teaches kids that opposition is contextual (if their best friend is on the opposing team, for example). Of course, getting too caught up in the game is unhealthy for lots of reasons, too. There is plenty of advice for parents, teachers, coaches and just adults in general on what they can do to help children grow up to be better people. (One I liked was to make a pact with other parents to be honest with each other so you have a warning that you're going overboard one way or another.) The most compelling reading in the book came from the anecdotes that begin each chapter, from parents, coaches, and especially from children themselves (who see through all sorts of hypocrisy and "parenting techniques"). The explanations of academic studies are fine and lend weight to the arguments presented. Although, I have to repeat myself and say that the most compelling part of the argument was that it was not extreme in any way, but rather thoughtful and reflective. Well worth reading.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Emily Childs

    "Too many of us are failing to quarrel with all that is wanting and mistaken in the world around us, let alone asking our children to quarrel with these troubles." While many of the issues in this book seem to be older child issues(my son is only 4), you really can't get started thinking about these things too early. While I felt a bit frustrated with the anecdotal nature of the book, what felt to be a bit too diverse of a topic, and a loose editorial hand, the book really hit its stride in Chapt "Too many of us are failing to quarrel with all that is wanting and mistaken in the world around us, let alone asking our children to quarrel with these troubles." While many of the issues in this book seem to be older child issues(my son is only 4), you really can't get started thinking about these things too early. While I felt a bit frustrated with the anecdotal nature of the book, what felt to be a bit too diverse of a topic, and a loose editorial hand, the book really hit its stride in Chapter 5, titled Moral Adults: Moral Children. In it, most poignantly, Weissbourd urges parents to continually work on their own moral character, i.e. that parents are in trouble when they think they are "done" with their own moral development, and that they are in the position of doling out wisdom to their children. Throughout the book the author deals with what he sees as an emerging culture of parents who value their child's happiness over all else, parents who promote their own children's interests with little thought to the effects on other children, and overactive sports parents. While many of the topics may seem simple or obvious, his insistence that parents can, with work, cultivate in their children a "capacity to take other perspectives and to make the needs of others as real and compelling" as their own, is really important and we all could take the time to think about it and what it means in our relationships with our kids. Dozens of topics in this book could be books in and of themselves, but this book provides the jumping off point for thinking about the important work of parenting and living in a community.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Erica

    I found this a little dry and it seems more appropriate for families with children that are a little older than mine but I appreciate the points he is making, especially promoting kindness in children over self-interested happiness and bolstering communication with your kids that leads to healthy parent - child relationships. His argument that often the child's issues are rooted in the parent's issues is an excellent reminder of how we need to be constantly self-reflecting and growing as parents I found this a little dry and it seems more appropriate for families with children that are a little older than mine but I appreciate the points he is making, especially promoting kindness in children over self-interested happiness and bolstering communication with your kids that leads to healthy parent - child relationships. His argument that often the child's issues are rooted in the parent's issues is an excellent reminder of how we need to be constantly self-reflecting and growing as parents.

  9. 4 out of 5

    C

    At times maddeningly frustrating in it's vagueness, The Parents We Mean to Be struggles with how parents, teachers and mentors can raise moral children. While it offers few concrete tips, the questions raised are reason enough to read this. At times maddeningly frustrating in it's vagueness, The Parents We Mean to Be struggles with how parents, teachers and mentors can raise moral children. While it offers few concrete tips, the questions raised are reason enough to read this.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marty

    Big thoughts, big problems, big insights....but no practical or usable advice to the average parent trying to make sense of moral issues in everyday life. This book is really just an extended essay of a Harvard-elite educator.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Phoebe

    What I like about this book: Weissbourd asserts that we ought to focus less on children's happiness and more on their moral character. What I like about this book: Weissbourd asserts that we ought to focus less on children's happiness and more on their moral character.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sophie MH

    From NPR most e-mailed stories on April 16th, 2009 Introduction For many years, as a psychologist and a parent, I have kept my ear tuned to the latest wisdom parents receive about how to raise children who will become caring, strong, and responsible people. I have combed popular articles, tracked politicians' ideas, gathered advice from talk show experts. The basic messages are predictable: single parenthood, peer pressure, and popular culture are destroying our children's moral foundations. Paren From NPR most e-mailed stories on April 16th, 2009 Introduction For many years, as a psychologist and a parent, I have kept my ear tuned to the latest wisdom parents receive about how to raise children who will become caring, strong, and responsible people. I have combed popular articles, tracked politicians' ideas, gathered advice from talk show experts. The basic messages are predictable: single parenthood, peer pressure, and popular culture are destroying our children's moral foundations. Parents and other adults are failing as role models and neglecting to teach children basic moral values and standards. Kids need to know right from wrong. According to a major survey by the organization Public Agenda, more than six in ten American adults identified "as a very serious problem" young people's failure to learn fundamental moral values, including honesty, respect, and responsibility for others. There is, to be sure, some truth in these explanations for children's moral troubles. I have seen the powerful influence of peer pressure on my own kids, and my wife and I certainly try to limit their exposure to aspects of popular culture that seem designed to obliterate every particle of their humanity. Children need constructive role models who teach right from wrong. But for anyone who is willing to enter children's worlds and look hard at what shapes their development, there is much about these explanations that is mystifying, if not deeply unsettling. At best they miss the point; at worst they are a kind of massive cover-up and cop-out. Blaming peers and popular culture lets adults off the hook— and dangerously so. It dodges a fundamental truth that is supported by a mountain of research. Children's moral development is decided by many factors, including not only media and peer influences but their genetic endowment, birth order, gender, and how these different factors interact. Yet we are the primary influence on children's moral lives. The parent-child relationship is at the center of the development of all the most important moral qualities, including honesty, kindness, loyalty, generosity, a commitment to justice, the capacity to think through moral dilemmas, and the ability to sacrifice for important principles. While there's nothing wrong with exhorting adults to be better role models and to teach values, this by itself does nothing to help people actually be and do these things. I don't know any adult who became a better role model simply by being told to be one. Nor do these exhortations reach the heart of what it is to be a person who is an effective parent, a true moral mentor. What I am acutely aware 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. This knowledge came to me gradually in the first years of my children's lives, but there was one specific afternoon when it struck me most sharply. Sunday afternoons were sacrosanct, reserved for family outings. My three kids are three years apart, and it was often hard to find something that was fun for every one. One blustery, sunny Sunday, we went to a park near the ocean. My oldest son, then about seven years old, was withdrawn and seemed listless. The park was not his favorite place. My week had been stressful, and I'd been looking forward to this outing. I lashed out at him for sulking. We had done what he'd wanted to do the Sunday before, I reminded him, and I expected him to rally, to cheerfully participate. It also seemed to me that this was an opportunity to reinforce a basic notion of reciprocity. My wife certainly agreed with me that our son should be expected to engage in activities for the sake of the family. But, she pointed out, he seemed more tired than unhappy, and she reminded me that I, too, could seem less than enthusiastic during family activities I didn't enjoy. She added, gently, that perhaps I should rethink whether the real issue in this case was teaching my son a moral standard. Instead, maybe I'd gotten angry because I'd been expecting this family event to pull me out of my own bad mood. After some grumbling, I came to see that my wife was right. I apologized to my son and explained to him that I had had a rough week. But what dawned on me suddenly was that under the guise of teaching my son a principle, I had made it harder for him to care about how I thought or felt, more self-protective, and perhaps a little less willing to pitch in for the family. What also hit me was that while this single event wouldn't do lasting damage, many times a week we had interactions with our kids in which my wife and I succeeded— or failed— in disentangling and balancing our needs and theirs and in enabling them to take other perspectives, and that these interactions, cumulatively, defined their notion of what a relationship is and powerfully shaped their capacity for caring, respectful relationships. Our children's moral qualities were also shaped day to day by what we registered, or failed to acknowledge, in the world around us, and what we asked them to register— whether we let them treat a store clerk as invisible, or commented when a child in a playground had been treated unfairly, or pointed out to them a neighbor's good deed. We were, too, constantly affecting their moral abilities by how we de fined their responsibilities for others, and by whether we insisted that those responsibilities be met. Our effectiveness as moral mentors has hinged, most basically, on whether we have earned our children's respect and trust by, among many things, admitting our errors and explaining our decisions to them in ways that they see as fair. It was these day- to- day details of our relationship with our children— far more than our talk about values— that formed their moral core. What has clearly been hardest for my wife and me— and for every parent we know— is being vigilant about these things when we have been stressed or depleted or outright depressed. There are "strategies" that can help us with our children during these critical moments, to be sure. But what is fundamentally being challenged at these times are our moral qualities and maturity— including our ability to manage our flaws— qualities that can't be feigned. The reason many children in this country continually lack vital moral qualities is that we have failed to come to grips with the fundamental reality that we bring our selves to the project of raising a moral child. That makes being a parent or mentor a profound moral test, and learning to raise children well a profound moral achievement. This book offers, then, a very different view of moral development than the ideas currently dominating the airwaves. It is a view gleaned over the past several years from my own experiences as a parent, from informal conversations with parents, observations of families, from interviews that I, along with my research team, have conducted with scores of children and adults— parents, teachers, sports coaches— as well as from a survey of about 200 children. Much of what we found was heartening. Many parents care deeply about their children's moral qualities, and we uncovered a wide variety of effective parenting practices across race, ethnicity, and class. This book takes up key, illuminating variations in these practices. Yet we also found much that is troubling. Some adults hold misguided beliefs about raising moral children, and some parents have little investment in their children's character. And the bigger problem is more subtle: a wide array of parents and other adults are unintentionally— in largely unconscious ways— undermining the development of critical moral qualities in children. This book reveals this largely hidden psychological landscape— the unexamined ways that parents, teachers, sports coaches, and other mentors truly shape moral and emotional development. It explores, for example, the subtle ways that adults can put their own happiness first or put their children's happiness above all else, imperiling both children's ability to care about others and, ironically, their happiness. It shows not only how achievement- obsessed parents can damage children, but also how many of us as parents have unacknowledged fears about our children's achievements that can erode our influence as moral mentors and diminish children's capacity to invest in others. It explores why a positive parent instinct that is suddenly widespread— the desire to be closer to children— can have great moral benefits to children in certain circumstances but can cause parents to confuse their needs with children's, jeopardizing children's moral growth. It reveals how the most intense, invested parents can end up subtly shaming their children and eroding their moral qualities, and it shows the hidden ways that parents and college mentors can undermine young people's idealism. At the same time, this book describes inspiring parents, teachers, and coaches who avoid these pitfalls, as well as concrete strategies for raising moral and happy children. And it makes the case that parents and other adults have great potential for moral growth. Moral development is a lifelong project. Parenting can either cause us to regress or cultivate in us new, powerful capacities for caring, fairness, and idealism, with large consequences for our children. What is often exciting about parenting is not only the unveiling of our children's moral and emotional capacities, but the unveiling of our own. Finally, this book seeks to shift attention away from our heavy focus on teaching values, toward other, more effective approaches. One problem with the values approach be comes instantly clear when talking to children as young as six years old: the great majority of children are quite articulate about values and standards and many see as patronizing the perception that they lack them. Research reveals that even children as young as three and four years old often know that stealing is wrong, even without being explicitly told by adults. That's not to say— and this can't be shouted loudly enough— that children do not have a problem with values. But the problem is different: it is actually living by values, such as fairness, caring, and responsibility, day to day. Sixteen-year-old Bill Heron knows that he laughed too hard and too long when a friend put a fart machine under the desk of a new girl in class, but he didn't want to "spoil the joke" for every one. Fourteen-year-old Sarah Hamlin knows that she should reach out to a new kid at school, but she "gets too busy." Ten-year-old Juan Maltez knows that teasing can be hurtful, but he believes that if he stops teasing, he'll be tagged a loser: "I'll slide right into the sea of dorks." As a quite direct sixteen-year-old said to me: "I'm taking this class where they're trying to help us figure out how to determine what's right from wrong. But the kids at my school all know right from wrong. That's not the problem. The problem is that some kids just don't give a shit." These children don't need us to define the goal. That's easy. The challenges for us are much harder and deeper. One of them is to help children deal with the emotions, such as the fear of being a pariah or a "loser," that cause them to transgress. Emotions are often the runaway bus; values, the driver desperately gripping the wheel. A second critical challenge is to help children develop a deep, abiding commitment to these values, a commitment that can override other needs and goals. The issue isn't moral literacy; it's moral motivation. There is one capacity in particular that is at the heart of such motivation— appreciation, the capacity to know and value others, including those different in background and perspective. Appreciation brakes destructive impulses— there is no more powerful deterrent to lying, stealing, or tormenting those who are different— and inspires caring, responsibility, and generosity. This book will provide a kind of map for parents for developing in children this vital quality. A third challenge is to develop in children a strong sense of self— so that they can withstand adversity in the ser vice of moral goals— and to ingrain in children from early ages the habits of attending to and caring for others. The self-sacrificing acts of Europeans who rescued Jews from the Nazis in World War II, research by Samuel and Pearl Oliner suggests, were not matters of deliberation. They were acts that emerged from these individuals' basic self- concepts and dispositions. As one rescuer puts it: "I insist on saying that it was absolutely natural to have done this [rescuing:]. You don't have to glorify yourself— considering that we are all children of God and that it is impossible to distinguish between one human and another." It is possible to weave values such as responsibility into children's sense of self from an early age, to make caring for others as reflexive as breathing. In all these ways, then, this book seeks to generate a new conversation about how to raise moral children. Especially as children become adolescents, it may seem impossible to shield them from crass media images or the strong pull of morally mindless peer groups. Yet in the end, if we are determined, self-reflective, and open to counsel from our loved ones, we can both create in our children a strong moral core early in childhood and be strong guides for them in navigating the troubles of adolescence and young adulthood. This book is about how. What are the real sources of our children's morality? How, concretely, can we develop appreciation in children and shape the critical emotions underlying morality? How can we cultivate our own moral and mentoring abilities and better direct the many hidden currents that are shaping our children's moral and emotional lives? Excerpted from THE PARENTS WE MEAN TO BE by Richard Weissbourd. Copyright (c) 2009 by Richard Weissbourd. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    This book is a game changer. I've said this before about other parenting books I've read, but if you are going to read ONE parenting book, THIS is it. If there is one book that is going to erase your parental anxiety, this is it. This book is the one that helped me find my personal inner parenting strength. If there is a book that can increase the positive impact teachers and coaches have on their students, this is it. This book blows the premises that popular modern parenting practices and belie This book is a game changer. I've said this before about other parenting books I've read, but if you are going to read ONE parenting book, THIS is it. If there is one book that is going to erase your parental anxiety, this is it. This book is the one that helped me find my personal inner parenting strength. If there is a book that can increase the positive impact teachers and coaches have on their students, this is it. This book blows the premises that popular modern parenting practices and beliefs are built upon right out of the water. We unconsicously absorb these parenting dictams, which are all well intentioned - born out of a desire to improve upon previous generations' parenting, and out of a rich public awareness of psychology research. However, this book pulls back the curtain of our awareness to reveal how these premises are entirely faulty and how they have been taken to such damaging extremes. This is a book I would like to read twice, in order to completely erase from my mind the patterns of thinking and acting towards my child that are based upon these faulty premises. I find it all too easy to keep slipping back into old mindsets as time goes on! A few pertinent points I took away from this book are below: By blaming pop culture for eroding our children's moral development, we are abdicating our responsibility as parents and educators to shape our children's moral development ourselves. Moral development does not occur by talking with children about what is right or wrong. Moral development occurs by doing right, modeling right. We talk to children about right or wrong and they learn what is right or wrong, but that does not mean we have taught them to DO what's right, or to resist difficult emotions that pull our children towards doing the wrong thing (i.e. fear of peer rejection). Guilt is the self-reproach we feel when we violate an inner standard. We feel shame about who we are, not a deed one has done. Shame in moderation guides us along our path of moral development, but children more often than not are living with unhealthy levels of shame these days. Perhaps the most common and damaging kind of shame is when parents are threatened by their children's feelings and weaknesses. Many parents have difficulty tolerating their children's flaws and troubling feelings - anxieties, angers, disappointments, even sadness. Parents may be threatened by their children's negative feelings and weaknesses for many reasons. Often children's negative feelings don't resonate with what parents expect their child to be or of how they expect their family to function. Because we are doing so much for our children these days, a great deal of our self-esteem is wrapped up in our parenting, which makes the stakes of parenting very high. For some parents, any sign of parenting failure, any expression of distress, anger, doubt or weakness in a child is an attack on their fundamental sense of competence. This generation's parenting mission is happiness, which I'm embarrassed to say I had whole-heartedly and mindlessly bought into. "But by so shamelessly promoting our children's happiness we are making our children not only less moral, but ironically, less happy. Goodness or virtue is the key to development of happiness. Parents have also become intoxicated with the power of self-esteem. The habits of attending to and caring for others does not spring from happiness and self-esteem". Gang leaders and bullies often have high self-esteem, but the esteem is for a fragmented, immature, and selfish self. "When parents place their children's happiness above their awareness of others, children are cheated out of social and moral skills that are key to at least certain kinds of lasting well-being." Parenting practices that serve the happiness mission include the "praise craze," excessive focus on our children's entertainment, constant evaluation of and running commentary on their children's feelings. Closeness with our children can backfire. To obtain maturity, appreciation for others, and ideals, children need to idealize their parents at certain stages of development - a powerful way to internalize their parents' moral qualities - and at other stages to separate. Many of us are making it hard for our children to idealize us because we idealize THEM. And we are struggling mightily with "letting go" of our children. By not letting go, parents drive their children into unhealthy separation in order to disconnect themselves from their parents, and rely too heavily upon peers standards and expectations. Contrary to popular belief, moral growth is not "fixed" in adulthood, but is a continuous, life-long process. Not just parents, but those who have relationships with children, including teachers and coaches, are inevitably influencing the moral development of children. Teachers can make children writhe with shame or they can model empathy. Unfortunately, many teachers lack the skills to be moral educators. To promote children's moral growth, schools need to become very different places, to emphasize each person's responibility to the greater school community. The moral benefits and costs of sports depends on how the parents and coaches relate to each other and how coaches relate to parents and parents to children. Significant numbers of coaches act recklessly. Coaches can enhance moral reasoning by helping children sort through thier moral dilemmas in sports. While it's important for parents and coaches to work on their attitudes and behavior, it's may be important to change the rules

  14. 4 out of 5

    Warren

    Superb overview of 21st-century parenting issues from a Harvard professor who has been outspoken about the dangers of our current college-admissions frenzy. The book doesn't break new ground so much as it offers a comprehensive look at the many areas in which parents are challenged to support moral growth in their children at a time when morals often fall behind such areas as achievement and happiness. He is not opposed to happiness, by the way - he just believes parents should help support thei Superb overview of 21st-century parenting issues from a Harvard professor who has been outspoken about the dangers of our current college-admissions frenzy. The book doesn't break new ground so much as it offers a comprehensive look at the many areas in which parents are challenged to support moral growth in their children at a time when morals often fall behind such areas as achievement and happiness. He is not opposed to happiness, by the way - he just believes parents should help support their kids' happiness and their moral growth. A great read for parents, teachers, coaches, and all mentors.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Havah Shah

    This book really made me think about certain things I had never thought to think about before and other things I had started to think about but couldn’t quite formulate or come to a good conclusion on. It was very helpful and I took a lot from it. Especially love that it’s not like 90% of the parenting books out there, written in 3rd grader vocabulary with unnecessary redundancies. Would definitely recommend unequivocally.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    This book wasn't as insightful as I was hoping. He goes through different situations and problems in modern society raising children and offers some suggestions for better results and relationships. A lot of advocating being moral yourself and raising children with a moral compass, which I think I take for granted living in a very religious area with lots of people who share my moral standards. This book wasn't as insightful as I was hoping. He goes through different situations and problems in modern society raising children and offers some suggestions for better results and relationships. A lot of advocating being moral yourself and raising children with a moral compass, which I think I take for granted living in a very religious area with lots of people who share my moral standards.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Asheesh Saksena

    Editor Required! This is a woefully tedious book. There are small insights buried under a lot of verbiage. And this old school narration of making a point only after a trite and hypothetical case study is avoidable. This is a short, high quality white paper stretched into an unreadable monologue. You forget the key message while navigating through the noise.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    A thought-provoking read! To the readers who thought it lacked practical suggestions; that mindset is a product of our current parenting approaches. There is no quick fix. It's not written to be immediately applicable to you. It's written to help us reflect philosophically on our culture and, then, to wrestle with what this looks like in practice in our lives, families, and communities. A thought-provoking read! To the readers who thought it lacked practical suggestions; that mindset is a product of our current parenting approaches. There is no quick fix. It's not written to be immediately applicable to you. It's written to help us reflect philosophically on our culture and, then, to wrestle with what this looks like in practice in our lives, families, and communities.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Vandepol

    An eye-opening look at the pitfalls of modern parenting and mentoring, navigating the pressures of sport, academic achievement, and post-secondary aspirations. With a focus on contribution and character over mere happiness and achievement; Harvard psychologist Weissbourd identifies how to recognize and leverage influence on the next generation while growing ourselves.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Danielle England

    Well researched Scholarly look at the ways communities enhance or injure the moral development of children. Special attention given to immigrant communities and what they offer to the US.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea Oaks

    Good insight for me as a parent, teacher, and an adult who needs to continue working on my own moral development

  22. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Erdman

    I loved the first chapter and the last two chapters. The middle of the book was mainly about school and academic achievement. As homeschoolers, a lot of it did not apply to us.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    Instead of being an actionable set of guidelines for parents, this book was more of a crotchety parents/teachers/coaches these days SMH rant.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Massry

    Couldn’t finish it, not an easy read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dana Probert

    A solid read full of thoughtful research and good ideas for raising moral kids and changing our schools, sports and communities to support that effort.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mia

    I found a great deal of what Weissbourd writes about to be simple common sense, but his emphasis on morality as a lifelong work-in-progress (as opposed to a stagnant goal we automatically achieve when we hit a certain age as adults) and the higher value of examples we set (over simple lectures that don't carry half as much weight with our children) did cause me to rethink a lot of the actions I take with my children and had me questioning what messages I've really been sending them. It's true, a I found a great deal of what Weissbourd writes about to be simple common sense, but his emphasis on morality as a lifelong work-in-progress (as opposed to a stagnant goal we automatically achieve when we hit a certain age as adults) and the higher value of examples we set (over simple lectures that don't carry half as much weight with our children) did cause me to rethink a lot of the actions I take with my children and had me questioning what messages I've really been sending them. It's true, as Weissbourd points out, that we Americans place so much stress on achievement and success that it undermines what we try to impart to our children about giving and supporting others. I think it's that sort of attitude that created that smug speech by Rudy Giuliani at the 2008 Republican national convention, in which he basically derided Barack Obama's background of community service as an unimportant and irrelevant experience in preparation for public office. Public service is not good preparation for...public service? Because politics is seen through a lens of power and prestige, all too often the idea that one is supposed to be serving the public is lost. Individual achievement is so revered, and the desire of it so ingrained, into the national psyche that it permeates at every level and informs too much of our parenting approaches. We push for our kids to excel often at the expense of everything else, including our responsibility to the other children in our communities. Weissbourd's book is an attempt to remove the blinders from American parents and make us more aware of the long-term effects of the individualistic mindset that controls far too much of our child-rearing practices.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    I thought the book came across as too preachy and covered a lot of ground that's basic common sense. I also got turned off at the beginning of the book when the author acknowledged that some of the anecdotes were actually "composites." As a journalist, I can just imagine what would happen to me if I wrote an article in which I used these "composites." One point the book made that I think we parents can learn from, however, is that we need to be concerned with the broader world of children, not j I thought the book came across as too preachy and covered a lot of ground that's basic common sense. I also got turned off at the beginning of the book when the author acknowledged that some of the anecdotes were actually "composites." As a journalist, I can just imagine what would happen to me if I wrote an article in which I used these "composites." One point the book made that I think we parents can learn from, however, is that we need to be concerned with the broader world of children, not just our own. We shouldn't be just thinking of what our child can get from the school but about the broader community - before pushing for that gifted program, thinking about whether the school has the resources for it. Or not just demanding that the troublemaker be removed from the class/school, but trying to find a way to reach and help that child. Sometimes we as parents can get so caught up in our own children's successes we don't take time to think about the wider communities around them. In another chapter he takes on how parents can often end up spending too much of their time/resources with/on their children, making them too dependent - but he doesn't really offer any specifics. But other parts focused on things that are probably obvious to any parent concerned enough to pick up the book in the first place: Crazy obsessed sports parents, being more concerned with our children's academic success than with their moral growth, etc.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Elise

    I became interested in reading this book not because I have any opportunity to put Weissbourd's lessons into practice, but because I am pretty interested in the topic of moral development and character education. I am not at all well-versed in parenting literature, but I do think Weissbourd's book is unique in that his focus is on how parents and other adults who work with kids can reflect and improve themselves, rather than actions they can take specifically to improve their children. One of my I became interested in reading this book not because I have any opportunity to put Weissbourd's lessons into practice, but because I am pretty interested in the topic of moral development and character education. I am not at all well-versed in parenting literature, but I do think Weissbourd's book is unique in that his focus is on how parents and other adults who work with kids can reflect and improve themselves, rather than actions they can take specifically to improve their children. One of my main takeaways, and one that I hope I will remember for future use, is that the objective of raising kids is not to fulfill some unrealized version of yourself, or to create a replica of yourself. This may sound obvious, but Weissbourd draws from many examples, both from research and personal experience, where parents unknowingly place all kinds of pressures on their kids (and on themselves) because they have some picture of who their kids will or should be. On the contrary, Weissbourd argues that being a good model of morality and character starts with really knowing our kids, and not just knowing what we want out of our kids. He also has great things to say about the parent/teacher partnership, morality in organized sports, and gender. This is a great book: extremely easy to read and applicable (I think), and not at all preachy.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Terri

    This book was thought provoking and provided some guidance for passing your own values on to your children. I especially liked that the author focused on the individuality of children - often in lieu of specific advice, he would suggest parents make sure that they know their children and know what would best development them. Weissbound also debunks, at great length, the myth that moral character is fully set in childhood and encourages readers to continue their own growth as ethical beings. All- This book was thought provoking and provided some guidance for passing your own values on to your children. I especially liked that the author focused on the individuality of children - often in lieu of specific advice, he would suggest parents make sure that they know their children and know what would best development them. Weissbound also debunks, at great length, the myth that moral character is fully set in childhood and encourages readers to continue their own growth as ethical beings. All-in-all, though, I found the book to be pretty light on concrete ideas. While thoughtful, Weissbound often seemed to be grappling with answers rather than providing them. While this allowed for some thoughtful introspection, it wasn't quite what I was looking for, and not what the book's title lead me to expect. Weissbound also clearly presumed that religious households were more likely to pass along morals, even though at least regarding altruism, religious households are negatively correlated with the value. http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/1... Overall, I appreciated that the book made me think about what values I want to instill in my child, and how often my actions conform to those values, but I would have liked some more definitive guidance.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    A Harvard psychology professor's gentle and thoughtful perspective on how American parents are royally screwing up their children. I think all American moms and dads ought to read this book. It's short, to-the-point, but very reasonable and convincing. Particular examples: Raising children with the idea that making them happy is the main goal only produces little self-absorbed monsters. Believing that self-esteem is the most important thing to imbue in children doesn't lead to moral, kind little A Harvard psychology professor's gentle and thoughtful perspective on how American parents are royally screwing up their children. I think all American moms and dads ought to read this book. It's short, to-the-point, but very reasonable and convincing. Particular examples: Raising children with the idea that making them happy is the main goal only produces little self-absorbed monsters. Believing that self-esteem is the most important thing to imbue in children doesn't lead to moral, kind little humans; high self-esteem is not a measure of moral achievement (bullies and kids who commit violent crimes often have very high self-esteem). Obsessing about your children's levels of academic or extra-curricular achievement is also another great way to ruin them. And so on. People, give your kids boundaries and discipline! PARENT them; don't just try to be their "best friend." Kids need good, moral parents more than anything else. There's a startling lack of them these days, it seems.

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