It is normal for young children to think of themselves first. The question is: How can you encourage them to move beyond themselves to thinking of others as well?
First, acknowledge your child’s wants. Criticizing them for being “selfish” and “self-centered” probably won’t move them toward generosity to others and is likely to make them feel badly about themselves.
Good evidence shows that children are innately generous. Nurturing that quality is the best way to cultivate it.
Like any worthwhile undertaking, helping children learn generosity means investing time.
The good news is, you don’t have to do it all at once in December. You can start now and continue throughout the year.
By the end of 2015 your family will be living more in tune with this value.
Here are some other ideas, collected from a variety of sources:
- Instead of asking, “What did you get?” instead ask, “What did you give?”
- Appreciate people for who they are, not for what they give you.
- Invite children to consider the needs of others as they express their own wants. “So, you would like a Beyblade? That would be cool! What do you think Julia might want?”
- Give children an envelope of money to give away and share stories afterward.
- Make hot chocolate and let your child hand it out to bell-ringers around town (or crossing guards).
- Leave a plate of cookies for the garbage collectors.
- At drive-through restaurants, etc., pay for the people behind you.
- Create an expectation of giving with allowances: Save, Give and Spend. The child chooses where their donation goes.
- Help each child to write out a “Gift Giving List” for family and friends.
- Hand-made gifts have extra value because of the energy and love required to make them.
- Choose a charity to donate to or sponsor a child or a family.
- Make phone calls to special people just to say, “Thank you for being you. I love you!”
- Write actual, good old-fashioned thank you cards together.
- Remember, your daily, simple acts of generosity of giving your time and energy to raise a healthy, happy family are invaluable.
Carry on, one baby step at a time. Seasons’ Greetings!