Teach Them to Care

Dear Barbara

My question is simple. How do we get our kids to care? They’re 14 and 15 yr old girls. They appear to be very self-centered and horribly spoiled but in truth they’re not. They‘re good girls. They just don’t seem to know how to care about others. My husband and I always tell them about poor kids in other countries, we’ve explained what it means to be hungry, and have tried to enlighten them around matters such as what being sick must be like for a family. They listen and they seem to be hearing it until they say or do something that makes me wonder otherwise. They make wisecracks about the less fortunate and then laugh together. It breaks my heart and makes me crazy with anger. Even if we punish them, they do it again and again and keep doing it. They seem like they’re getting more and more mean and less and less caring every day and we really honestly don’t know how to stop this ‘phase’. Please help us.

Signed’ Are They Really That Bad?


Dear Are They

Well I can’t say for sure if they are ‘really that bad’ because I don’t know what you mean by ‘bad’. I see two girls vying for your attention. I see them working very hard to get your goat and to get you to respond to them. Their needs are not being met, for one reason or another, (without judgment it’s usually about working parents simply not having enough time to be together as a family) and they’re acting out because of it. Kids usually follow model behavior such as you suggest you are already doing. Maybe step up your game a bit by asking them to each choose a child to sponsor or insist that they help out with a community event for those in need. Perhaps you can ask them to donate a potion of their allowances to a cause they believe in and/or agree to save money to take a family trip where they can see real poverty in real time. Regarding the laughter and the belittling, both could be representative of a shallow mind set but I don’t really believe that’s the case. I think it’s that they want YOU and your time. I think the younger sibling is following suit with her older sister in an attempt to ingratiate her (very normal) and the older one is saying what she is because it’s working! As long as you are getting angry, you are connected. Kids will, as I always say, take negative communication with/from a parent over none. Go back and read this letter and try to see it from another perspective. I imagine you too will see that it’s the girls crying out for you and your time. Now ask yourself what you can do differently to both fill that need and model the type of behavior you seek. Try one of my ideas or sit together and come up with your own as a family. Giving is always healthy and the strongest families are built on a foundation of community awareness and kindness. Go for it!

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Posted on May 7th, by Barbara Evoy in Dear Barbara Column - Archive.

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