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We Generation: Raising Socially Responsible Kids

We Generation: Raising Socially Responsible Kids

by Michael Ungar

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Engaging and timely, this book is an invaluable resource for parents who want their children to become socially responsible and globally aware adults

As youth culture seems to grow more self-centred and obsessed with "Me,"Michael Ungar shows us that, in fact, children today are as willing as ever to think "We." Given the right signals, and


Engaging and timely, this book is an invaluable resource for parents who want their children to become socially responsible and globally aware adults

As youth culture seems to grow more self-centred and obsessed with "Me,"Michael Ungar shows us that, in fact, children today are as willing as ever to think "We." Given the right signals, and some important changes to the homes we live in, our schools and communities, kids will seek out close connections with the adults in their lives. Like generations before them, they want to be noticed for the contributions they can make. What they need, though, is compassion and encouragement from parents, and some careful attention to their most important connections, those made at home. Combining inspiring stories taken from his clinical work with families and children with expert research gathered from around the world, Ungar reveals how the close connections kids crave, and the support adults provide, can help kids realize their full potential - and how it can also protect them from the dangers of delinquency, whether it be drug abuse, violence, or early sexual activity.

At a time when global issues and activism have come to the forefront, We Generation offers a fresh, optimistic way of thinking about our children’s true nature and potential.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Can the “Me Generation” of baby boomers raise a “We Generation” of consciously compassionate, less self-involved kids? Canadian psychologist Ungar believes so and has written this guide for parents to help them foster in their offspring a spirit of volunteerism, a willingness to “give back” and a directive to do well by doing good. Each of these eight, action-oriented chapters offers anecdotes, self-evaluation tools, lists of activities and boxed tips as it addresses part of a plan for overcoming the problem of self-centered kids, starting with recognizing and learning that kids want to help and make changes; that compassion leads to connection, which leads to responsibility; how grandparents, neighbors and other parents can join forces; why parent-child affection is so important; how to guide kids spiritually and emotionally; how to avoid kids' isolation and anonymity in society; and strategies for generating excitement about being part of a wider world. Critical to all this is parents' commitment to model what they want to see in their kids. While this book may raise more questions than it answers—can kids who do community service only for college application profiles grow a conscience? or what about rebellious kids who do the opposite of their parents?—it is timely. Just as cardigan-clad Mr. Rogers embodied this concept in his PBS neighborhood, Ungar reframes it for today's families. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
InfoDad.com, 11/12/09
“A good deal of what Ungar urges is plain and simple unselfishness and cooperation, which are certainly worthy goals…The basic idea here—and it is a good one—is to avoid providing children so much that asks nothing of them that they become focused entirely on themselves…Parents who share Ungar’s worldview will surely find The We Generation uplifting.”

ForeWord, November/December 2009
“Offers effective suggestions on how to prepare children to become compassionate by engaging in simple acts of kindness…[A] helpful guidebook…A useful addition to the list of parental handbooks.”

Internet Review of Books, December 2009
“Plenty of practical tips…[A] well-researched book, so it will appeal to a wide range of parents.”

Mama’s Musings blog, 1/29/10
“[Ungar] turns a hopeful eye to the next generation who are more aware of social, economic and environmental issues than their parents…Michael Ungar’s book is like a prosey hug. He clearly walks his talk with an authentic voice, one by which we would do well to abide.”

Library Journal, 10/15
“In chapters analyzing various types of connections—family, spiritual, physical, architectural—Ungar concludes each chapter with a ‘tips list’ for ways to nurture kind connections. This pairs nicely with two other recent standouts: Kim John Payne’s Simplicity Parenting and Polly Young-Eisendrath’s The Self-Esteem Trap.”

Blogcritics.org, 10/11
“A good read for both parents and children…I would recommend this book to adults raising small children so they can immediately start to build security into their family interactions. I would hope parents of older teens would purchase several copies so all can read The We Generation at the same time and discuss it.”

Tuscon Citizen, “Shelf Life” blog, 10/11
“By sharing the inspiring stories of his work with families, Dr. Ungar…offers a plan of how to raise more engaged, community-minded kids during this era of self-centered obsession…This is a well-crafted book filled with sane advice.”

Plymouth Magazine, February 2010
“For those seriously interested in raising socially-conscious kids, this book is a must read. Not only does the author do a fabulous job of exploring the causes of ‘me’ thinking versus ‘we’ thinking, but he also gives parents simple ideas to help kids become active members of their home, church, school and community, making an impact in everything they do. Find fantastic techniques to try with children as young as preschool all the way through young adulthood.”

Costa Mesa Daily Pilot, 7/25/10
“Written in the spirit of helping parents foster their offspring to be less self-involved and more consciously compassionate people...This is a hopeful appeal to parents who want to improve the next generation's awareness of social, economical and environmental issues.”

Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, August 2010

Product Details

McClelland & Stewart Ltd.
Publication date:
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Random House
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt


I started writing this book on the day the principal of our local elementary school told me about a conversation he’d had with a parent of one of his eleven-year-old students. Driving home after work, he’d passed the boy playing road hockey with his friends. When the principal waved hello, the boy shouted back, “F– you!” and then, with a big smirk, went back to his game. The next morning, with a defiant boy in his office, the principal phoned the boy’s mother. He was astounded when she told him, “You have no right to discipline my son. He was off school property and it was after school hours. You have no say over what he does. I’ll decide what to do with him, not you.”

The principal stammered, “I see,” and hung up. He still gave the student a detention, but he wondered later what would become of such a boy.

I wasn’t that surprised by the mother’s response. I’ve seen fathers at my children’s soccer games yell insults at thirteen-year-olds on opposing teams. I’ve seen parents at the university where I teach hire lawyers to defend their sons and daughters who have been caught plagarizing. I’ve seen a mother of a three-year-old complain angrily to a daycare worker that another three-year-old was bullying her child by not getting off the playground swing quickly enough.

While parents don’t consciously raise their children to be self-centred, there are subtle and not-so-subtle things we do that teach our children to think about themselves (“me”) first, and about others and their own connection to those others (“we”) second. We can decide to consciously steer our children in the direction of more socially responsible behaviour. I’m convinced their generation has the potential to become far more connected with others and more compassionate than the generation raising them was raised to be (that’s us). In the pages that follow I’ll show how to raise children to think We during these Me-thinking times.


Say the phrase “connected kids” and most parents think about an Internet generation of MSN-chatting, online-gaming, text-messaging, and YouTube-surfing young people. They think of children sequestered in their bedrooms surrounded by technology, hardly wanting to break for dinner. This book is about a different kind of connected child.

Despite appearances to the contrary, our kids still crave old-fashioned flesh-and-blood connections with their parents, and with lots of other adults in their communities besides. They have a need to feel close to those who populate the “village” that raises them. But our children, whether they are five years old or fifteen, need parents most.

One parent or two, step-parents, or a caring grandparent who takes over when necessary — it doesn’t really matter who’s doing the parenting as long as it includes modelling the compassion that nurtures children’s own caring instincts. When we show children compassion, the odds are that they will grow up giving a damn about others, and caring about people in their families and communities as much as they care about themselves. They’ll become a We Generation.

Raising children to think We might just help us rethink some of our own Me-thinking ways. Afer all, many of us grew up in Me-thinking times. We feel guilty about driving huge gas-guzzling vehicles, but keep driving them to get our children safely to school or hockey practice. We try to forget the impact our actions have on the environment, while our children in the back seat report what their teacher said about global warming and our environmental “footprint.” We don’t mean to segregate our communities, but choose to live in gated communities just the same. We blush with embarrassment when our children finally notice that the poor people have been pushed away. We mumble something about “That’s just the way it is,” or make a donation to the food bank, but we are shy to say anything about how our choices are part of the problem. We want our children to have access to every available medical and social service imaginable, but we look for ways to avoid paying our taxes, hoping someone else will foot the bill. We don’t mean to be so self-centred, but as individual adults, we haven’t shown much inclination to take responsibility for the fiscal, environmental, or social liabilities we are leaving our children. It is a small step from such selfishness to the actions of the parent who excuses her son’s belligerent behaviour when his principal calls home.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Meet the Author

An internationally recognized expert on resilience in youth, Michael Ungar runs a private practice specializing in working with children and adults in mental health and correctional settings, and is a professor at the School of Social Work at Dalhousie University. He lives in Halifax with his wife and two children.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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