Turns out, there’s at least one issue on which Democrats and Republicans agree: instilling honesty and respect in children can be an uphill battle and parents want schools to supplement their efforts.
That’s one of the takeaways from a new survey, “Raising Good Kids,” which gathered insights from 1,034 parents of children between the ages of 6-18 years old.
The survey, released by Character.org and lpsos, polled parents from different political, racial and economic backgrounds as well as parents who are native Spanish speakers.
Sixty-three percent of both Republican and Democrat-leaning parents want their schools to help students develop qualities such as honesty, responsibility and respect. Perhaps even more telling, nine out of 10 parents surveyed said their children do not treat others with respect, and a whopping 85% don’t believe their offspring are honest.
Whether termed social emotional learning (SEL) or character building, the survey indicates parents are crying out for help in battling negative influences on children ranging from social media to partisan, societal divides.
“As schools and educators continue to navigate challenges to teaching SEL, character education may be a place of agreement," the report accompanying the survey concludes.
Nine in 10 parents agree that teachers have a positive impact on their children’s character; 82 percent of parents agree that coaches and other mentors have a positive impact on their children's character.
“I appreciate that teachers are another voice, another role model reinforcing important values to my child,” one parent said. “My six year old looks up to her teacher. The more positive influences she can encounter, the better.”
Three-quarters of parents feel character is less emphasized today than when they were growing up and 68% of parents admit they could be more proactive when it comes to reinforcing the importance of character.
Almost half of all parents (47%) wish they had more resources available to them to help inspire their child to be a good person.
Parents prioritized honesty (62%), responsibility (59%) and respect (52%) when asked to rank the top three character strengths.
The overwhelming majority (92%) of parents believe that “being a good person” is important, and helps one succeed in life (85%).
Although many parents cited the values associated with the Golden Rule as important (such as respect and fairness), less than one in five parents (14%) use the Golden Rule with their children.
Digital World Influencing Character (Or Lack Thereof)
A majority of parents surveyed agreed that a divided, digital world creates challenges for parents and children. Most parents (64%) agree that social media is negatively influencing their children's character.
“I have seen the videos my children come across, and I’m shocked at how kids are treating each other and adults,” one parent said.
Added another: “I do worry that one day someone else may have more influence over my children than me.”
Half of parents surveyed believe political polarization is negatively influencing their children’s character, while the vast majority (88%) of parents feel civility is getting worse in the United States.
“Social media behaviors and continued political division have left today’s parents in a precarious position when it comes to fostering character in their children,” said Arthur Schwartz, president of Character.org. “We are calling for a nationwide commitment to provide parents with the resources and support they need to ensure that every child and teen in our country have the social skills and character strengths to flourish in school, in the workplace and as citizens.”
Mark R. Lowery was formerly managing editor of Ed Post. He is a veteran journalist who has managed national magazines and worked for major newspapers, including New York Newsday, the Detroit Free Press and the Plain Dealer. He previously served as editorial director of October Research.