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The Kindness Gene

Recently, Jubilee Reach, a Red String charity partner since 2021, posted a story to their Grocery for Families (GFF) blog.  The post talked about the air of excitement as GFF families and kids celebrated the end of another school year and graduations.   It also thanked the many volunteers who trek to local stores to pick-up and deliver items, donate time and goods, and provide support and friendship to the GFF families.   One of the volunteers pictured was Jean Wang, mother to two of our Red String leaders, Leslie and Tina. 

When I saw this, my immediate thought was the old adage, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Jean Wang delivering groceries to Jubilee Reach's GFF program, daughter, Leslie, picking up groceries for GFF, and daughter, Tina, volunteering at Santa Monica Boys and Girls Club.

This saying refers to the traits of a child that have been passed down from the parents or other caregivers.  Although not every trait a person develops is parental, we do know from research that the formative years, between ages 0 to 8, are the most fundamental developmental stage in children.  During this crucial time, the daily experience of a child forms an imprint in their brain, which becomes a blueprint for the rest of their life. 

A 2017 study published in the British Journal of Psychology, “How Far Does the Apple Fall from the Tree” reveals the actual truth is much more nuanced than folk wisdom suggests. Researchers studied 418 German and Swiss families to see “which parents most strongly transmitted their values to their children.”  They discovered that parents who encourage and live out positive values like helping, supporting and caring for others, and kindness passed on their values more effectively than those who promoted values like power, position-seeking, and achievement.  Interestingly, children also adopted positive traits unrelated to kindness, like curiosity and respect for tradition, from parents who promoted caring values. The authors of the study believe parents who focus on positive values also exhibit greater sensitivity and caring toward their children; they “practice what they preach” says Professor Anat Bardi from Royal Holloway's Department of Psychology and co-author of the study. The study concluded that this creates a stronger bond and a stronger bond contributes to children adopting their parents’ values. In other words, children are more likely to replicate the values of an empathetic, supportive parent than one who pushes for achievement and position.

This is one of the reasons why we, at Red String, seek charities that not only provide long-term education and development support for children and youth, but also focus on engaging with their parents to help foster a supportive family environment.  We believe that charities who utilize this type of model have the best chance of creating the opportunities that can uplift the lives of children and families, empowering them to reach their full potential. 

While there are always other influences on how we develop the values that make us who we are, there is no doubt that our parents and/or a child's support structure have a huge role to play. How we then decide to take their values and teachings through our lives is, of course, up to each of us.

As for Leslie and Tina, I just want to thank their mom, Jean (and dad, Tim, too), for raising two beautiful, smart, and caring daughters. We're lucky and blessed to have them both on our team!

(to be continued)

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