How to raise a ‘giver’
Young children are egocentric by nature. As any 3-year old knows only too well the world revolves around them. “I want…” “Give me…” “It’s mine!” and other variations are the mantras for this age group. This self-centredness is developmental, which means it’s something they grow out of… or they’re supposed to.
But some kids never bridge the gap from self-centredness to generosity. They become takers with an inflated sense of entitlement rather than givers who do all they can to accommodate the needs of others. While it can be argued that some children are maybe self-centred by temperament I’m not convinced that we can blame Mother Nature entirely. There is no doubt that parenting impacts enormously on a child’s propensity to give rather than take.
In the eagerness to get kids off to a good start in life, a spirit of generosity is one quality that parents can easily overlook. Developing children’s personal competencies tend to be higher on most parents’ wish lists for their kids than developing a generous spirit.
But developing a sense of sharing in kids has plenty of positives. Children who are able to share their time, their space and themselves generally have more friends and experience more success than those who are self-centred and mean-spirited. Quite simply, they are leadership material!
Like most facets of child rearing developing a community ethos in kids’ can be a frustrating task but perseverance, modeling and expectations are parents’ greatest allies when it comes to things that really matter.
Here are 5 practical ways to develop a sense of generosity in kids:
- Expect kids to help
With families shrinking, kids get fewer opportunities to help at home than before. With this in mind expect your kids to help without being paid. Regular chores and activities that benefit others such as setting the meal table or helping a younger sibling get dressed teaches them that their contribution is valuable and very much required.
- Think ‘gang’
It’s a quirk of modern life that parenting is an individual endeavour. “What’s in the best interest of my child?” has replaced “What’s in the best interest of the family?” as a key parenting principle. Encourage children to make allowances for each other which may mean everyone watches a sibling’s special concert rather than some children missing it because ‘it’s boring!’ ‘We put ourselves out for each other’ is a wonderful family strength that often needs to be reinforced by parents.
- Don’t let them get away with meanness
Children wear L-plates when it comes to behaving generously. They don’t always get it right, which means that parents as the wise adults need to remind children when their words and actions are intolerant or mean-spirited, or when they need to put their own needs behind the needs of others.
- Develop a sense of other
Children and teenagers don’t live in a bubble. The socialisation process demands that kids be accountable for their poor behaviours. “What does this social situation reasonably require of my child at his or her age and stage of development?” is a great question to ask yourself to develop a sense of other, rather than entitlement in kids.
- Encourage giving
During the Victorian bushfires a few years ago I heard the story of a 9-year old whose mum went into his bedroom to growl at him for being up too late. She found him busy emptying his moneybox into little plastic bags, ready to donate at the school bushfire appeal next day. There were plenty of stories like this showing the generosity of Australian kids, we just need to encourage them in everyday life, rather than wait for a tragedy, to give their generosity a kick start. You can begin by encouraging them to give toys, books and clothes away when they have finished with them, or doing a good deed by a neighbour or friend.
The skills that kids need for future success are changing as technology, greater flexibility and mobility, and new economic forces are transforming workplaces at an astonishingly rapid rate. But the basic attitudes and character traits needed to succeed such as teamwork, initiative and generosity haven’t changed too much over time. Ask any employer and I’m sure they’d say they’d hire a giver over a taker any day as they are just so valuable to have on a team. Hopefully they are not becoming a rarity as well!Michael Grose is an Australian parenting educator, father, author, speaker and founder of www.parentingideas.com.au This article is about Parenting
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