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Harvard Project Schools Us All On How to Raise Nice Kids

Are you raising nice kids? Harvard Project releases strategies for how
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

A fascinating study led by Harvard University's "Make Caring Common" project has found that while we all may aim to raise nice, empathetic kids, the messages we're actually sending them throughout life aren't exactly setting them on that path to success.

The study, which was aptly titled "The Children We Mean to Raise," found that most kids are more concerned with personal success and winning than being kind to others. And it may be all our fault.

Around 80 percent of kids in the study admitted their parents seem to be mostly concerned with their achievement in areas like school and extracurriculars. While all that may not sound so bad, consider this: When the kids were asked whether or not their parents were prouder if they got good grades than if they were a caring part of their class, they were three times more likely to say good grades. Yikes.

Rick Weissbourd, the Harvard researcher and psychologist who led the study, says parents should fear not: There are methods and strategies to reverse the cycle. Among them? Present kids with more opportunities to be caring, and start rewarding them for uncommon acts of kindness over, say, doing a few chores they should be doing anyway. Researchers also urge parents to lead by example in this arena.

"Children are not born simply good or bad, and we should never give up on them," Weissbourd and his fellow researchers write in their findings. "They need adults who will help them become caring, respectful and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood."

"Good Morning America" released a video to highlight the project's findings. The video runs through five must-know tips and strategies for raising kind kids. Get out your pen and paper — it may be time to take some notes.

Still think your kid doesn't need any lessons on how to be more kind and less obsessed with success? You may want to think again. The study also brought to light some other rather alarming stats about their priorities: Nearly half of those interviewed admitted to cheating on a test, and a whopping 75 percent said they've copied homework at some point in their school career.

"GMA" also sat down with a group of kids and parents to hear more from both sides about this growing need to over-achieve.

One mom's all-too-honest quote: "I just want them to be happy, but you also don't want them to worry about paying their mortgage."

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