Let’s raise kind kids

Photo by Jenn Evelyn-Ann on Unsplash

There’s such an intense laser focus in parenting culture and education today on kids being ‘smart’.

My daughter is in kindergarten at a very progressive and creatively-driven micro school and she’s already getting overbearingly evaluated and passively ridiculed for not being able to check all the boxes of our left-brained culture and education system.

I saw two kids the other day wearing shirts that said, ‘Smart kids will rule the world.’

Now, that’s great. I’m all for smart. Yay for the scientific method and math and reading and all of the smart things.

But I’d note that smart people already rule the world. You could say that Donald Trump is ‘smart’. I mean, Wharton is a great school. No slouches get in there (though it does help to have a rich dad like Trump).

From what I can tell, you can throw a rock and hit a ‘smart’ person. But to find someone who is kindly and wise (note: different than ‘smart’) takes serious searching.

I’d argue that our world is more measured and rationalistically parsed out than ever. But look where it’s gotten us, internally. The anxiety, depression, bitterness, division and hopelessness in the human condition hasn’t lifted one bit.

Let’s support the ‘smart’ kids and let them be smart. But what’s lacking so much in this world isn’t smarts — it’s things like empathy, heart, caring, generosity, curiosity, and selflessness.

Smart is an easy-out for any system because it can be measured. One kid is smarter than another because she learned how to write by age three vs. the ‘slow’ kid over there who’s still struggling with the concept at six.

Box checked, noted, and measured. An immediate boost in social status for both child and parent (and the system maintains its relevance).

But when one big kid is helpful on the playground to smaller kids — when she takes the time and expends the vulnerability to make the new terrified kindergartner feel welcome and loved — her work goes largely unmeasured and thusly unnoticed (maybe she gets a pat on the back from a discerning teacher, but that’s about it). And so she moves towards becoming a recognized and measured ‘smart kid’ as the kindergartner is left there feeling alone at the teacher’s side while all the other kids play in small clan-like pods around her.

Looking ahead to a world full of our grown kids, I’d rather my neighbors be kind and wise than smart and intelligent.

As a parent, this is our battle. Raising kind kids in a system and culture that just wants them to be smart using a very questionable measuring stick for what it deems ‘intelligence’.

And so, I say, challenge accepted. We must raise kind kids to really change the world.