There may be nothing more important to raising children who are caring and productive adults than to provide parents—the primary influence on children’s moral and emotional development—with engaging, effective strategies for promoting in children key moral and performance virtues. Yet while parents are bombarded with strategies that seek to help them develop these virtues in children, rigorous data is distressingly scarce—especially across gender, race, ethnicity, and class—about what interests parents in taking up specific strategies and about which strategies are likely to be used consistently over time. Similarly, very little is known about what strategies actually influence children’s virtues and virtue-related skills and behaviors. Nor is there good information about what strategies are effective with children of parents who prioritize very different child-rearing goals.
We seek a 10-month planning grant for a three-year project that would enable us to pilot and assess a variety of engaging strategies (activities, practices, or routines) designed to promote three virtues—empathy, gratitude, and diligence—in three-to-thirteen-year-old children with various groups of parents and primary caregivers nationally (see full proposal attached). In this three-year project, we will assess interest in these strategies and their implementation and impact with parents who differ in child-rearing goals. This initial planning grant will enable us to identify and develop promising strategies that promote the three virtues, to test the efficacy of various messages to parents designed to interest them in taking up these strategies, to refine our research design, and to develop research instruments. This work will be key to the success of this project, and we anticipate that this project will generate important information and tools for raising many more children to be caring, productive, and gratified adults and constructive citizens.