The Danger of Raising Nice Kids

What are you aiming for in raising your child? Good grades? Excel at sports? Behave in public and make you proud?

Most parents say, “I want my child to be nice.”

But nice is not enough. It’s dangerous to settle for raising nice kids.  ‘Nice’ means pleasant, friendly and well-mannered. Originally, in Old English, ‘nice’ meant pleasant, peculiar and ignorant – coming from the Latin root ‘not-knowing’. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my kid to be pleasant but ignorant and unprepared. I want her to be prepared for life. I want him to be capable, confident and courageous.

It’s too easy to settle for the decoys of niceness. I call them the ‘3 A’s‘: Academics, Athletics, and Appearances. If my child is getting good grades. I’ve done a good job as a parent, and they are nice. If my child is good at sports, then everything must be okay. And if my child doesn’t look or act weird and dress strange or have too many tattoos or has a mohawk; then he or she is nice and I’ve done enough as mom or dad. These are all decoys and will divert you from what is important.

The really important stuff is what’s inside your child. Is she prepared from the inside-out? Or are you judging your effectiveness as a parent from the outside-in. I speak to a lot of parents who are worried about materialism, entitlement and impatience they see emerging in their offspring. These are externals – things that do with the outside issues. External-oriented parenting produces external-oriented kids.

Recently, I was on Fox & Friends talking about how nice is not enough.

Fox & Friends welcomes The Parents Coach – Timothy Smith

Ask yourself, What kind of child do I want from the inside-out? Most parents say traits like: Compassion, courage, responsibility, discernment, kindness, self-control, other-centered, impulse control, honesty and integrity.

Then ask, How can I guide and train my child to gain these over time? Partially, the answer is not settling for nice kids and not making it too easy on your child. An overemphasis on comfort and ease has made for soft, wimpy kids.

The Atlantic Journal Constitution covered my book with an excellent article: Raising Nice Kids Is Not Enough by Gracie Bonds Staples. In this article, I offer 7 Tips for Developing Authenticity in Your Child

“The whole danger,” I say, “is parents settling for the decoys of the niceness – star on the lacrosse field, acceptance into a top-tier university, graduating and getting a job. If you go for just these things along, you’ve just created the next generation of Enron or AIG executives, successful but not ethical.”

To order a copy of the book, shop at or shop at

What have you found to help you grow capable kids from the inside out?

For healthy families,

Timothy Smith