Do you want your kids to be nice or successful? Pick one!

A recent article in the Washington Post about raising "nice" kids got me thinking about whether being nice and kind to others is a career weakness.  I certainly want my kids to be considerate of others and in general be good human beings.  But I also want them to be aware of what they need to do to achieve their own goals. The post article says that parents should teach their children that caring for others is a top priority.  But, if you always let everyone cut in front of you on line then you will never reach the front.

In Tough's book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character
 (which I am still reading), he brings up Moral Character vs Performance Character.  Moral Character encompasses virtues like empathy, courage, honesty, and loyalty.  Whereas Performance Character includes:self-control, zest, curiosity, and optimism.  These are not comprehensive lists but you can see that the Moral virtues are very much connected with interactions with other people and the Performance ones are possible all by yourself. Thinking as a recruiter, the virtues that are most visible and likely to get our kids a job are heavily weighted on the Performance side.  Sure, interviewers want honest kids applying to their colleges or companies but how do you screen for that?  And courage? Even the army does not send their soldiers into battle as part of the interview process.

Why do we have to focus on one or the other.  Can we hope that our kids are nice, care about others, and also get to the top of their chosen career? When the boss asks if your daughter wants that promotion to the next level up the ladder, do you want her to say "Yes" or do you want her to say "No, give it to Fred since he really wants it too."

I want it all for my kids.  I want them to be nice, caring, wonderful adults (like they are now nice, caring, wonderful kids) and I also want them to be driven and passionate about achieving their goals in life. How do we explain this to our kids in a way that does not sound contradictory? "Think about others first except when you should think about yourself first..." Saying, "Focus on yourself but don't hurt others." is a good start but it is too passive on the caring bit. "Don't hurt people" is not the same as "Care for other people." The decisions our kids will make whenever there is a choice between helping themselves or helping someone else will need to be made on a case by case basis. I can't help but feel that this is another one of those things where our kids are going to find that their compass (moral and otherwise) is aligned based on watching us and how we interact with the people around us.  If we can find the right balance in our own lives and share it through positive actions visible to our kids then they will pick it up... I hope.