The 21st century has begun with a bang. Well, a few bangs. With natural disasters hitting our Earth like Hurricane Katrina and Haiti’s earthquake, and unnatural ones as well – namely the recent BP oil spill off the Gulf Mexico – our children have been exposed to grand gestures of social responsibility by the authorities and the citizens that have reached out to societies in distress.
With this type of example set, the modern child is well-situated to perform their own socially responsible tasks to help their fellow man. So how can the modern parent make the leap from passively exposing their children to newscasts on President Obama’s latest gesture to actually making the move to helping their own community?
Michael Ungar, Ph. D is an author of nine books and over 70 other writings regarding his work as a family therapist, and professor of both research and social work at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. On the issue of raising more socially responsible children, Dr. Ungar says that all it takes is providing a child with the option to being responsible for something, even if it’s as simple as helping to make a family meal – effectively empowering them to feel needed, special, and a significant contributor to a family or any other community.
“A child who feels a little bit older, more depended upon, and who feel they are a part of their family, their school or a community will be more apt to positive, socially responsible behaviour,” he explains. “These are important buffers against those things that parents worry about – like drugs and alcohol abuse, disengagement with school, and early sexual activity.”
Dr. Ungar’s confidence in the positive results that occur when children are given appropriate responsibilities enables them to take on the spirit that he articulates as “The We Generation” – that is, a generation of children that are conscious of one another, their families, their friends, and their communities overall.
In order to for parents to encourage their children to be “We”’ rather than “Me” thinkers, he suggests to turn the tables on what may usually be spoken about at your dinner table with your children. For example, instead of the typical “How was your day?” and “What did you get on your math test?”, parents should ensure that they talk about their own day, too.
“I don’t mean talking to your eight year old about your wonky boss or horrible board meeting,” clarifies Dr. Ungar. “But if you tell them about your day such as a fascinating meeting with someone from [out of town], you teach children that they are a part of a whole family unit.”
In his capacity as father of two teenagers, via his travels throughout the world regarding his research for the University, and as a family therapist, Dr. Ungar has had the privilege to witness first-hand what positive behaviour can results when parents and other authority figures provide a child with a little responsibility and sense of community.
“From my clinical work, I found that I kept prescribing families that were having conflicts or who were in crisis to encourage their children to actively participate in the family by giving them responsibilities,” says Dr. Ungar. “Really delinquent children even respond positively by given the simple task of cooking a meal for the family in order to participate in more genuine way – not just as a child, but as someone who has a real contribution to make.”
By setting the stage at home for this generation’s children to feel confident in their abilities to step up and contribute, Dr. Ungar looks forward to experiencing the long-term effects of a generation that are aware of their ability to play a significant and positive societal role.
Hear Dr. Ungar speak on his research and expertise in raising socially responsible here on ParentTalk Radio at http://liandrea.wpengine.com/podcast/young-author-mission-nutrition-kids-…
How do/will you turn the tables and empower your child(ren) to be a part of your family unit?