November 25, 2014

Raising Your Child to be Generous

As a parent in today’s pressure-filled world, we are constantly bombarded with messages about teaching our children to be academically prepared, physically fit, culturally aware. But what about old-fashioned traits, like generosity? Surely the world would be a better place if we all learned, from an early age, to be generous. Here are some ways you can raise your child to embrace the value of generosity.

Recognize that very young children are, by nature, extremely egocentric. The near constant refrain of “it’s mine” so commonly heard among 3- to 4-year-olds is evidence enough. And while you can’t change human nature, we as parents can begin to get our children, from a young age, to understand that their small world does not revolve around them. How? It starts by reinforcing the importance of sharing and taking turns.

Involve your children in regular acts of generosity. Though this sounds like a big commitment, even small acts of generosity that aren’t too time-consuming serve as an excellent example to children who are just learning what it means to be generous. This practice can be as simple as bringing an elderly neighbor’s newspaper from his front walk to his front door, or drawing a favorite teacher a card. Ask your child for suggestions on acts of generosity. Perhaps you can even implement a “generous act of the week” in your household.

Offer praise when your child demonstrates generosity—especially if it’s spontaneous. There’s no better way to reinforce a desired behavior than to recognize it with positive feedback. And be as specific as possible, so your child knows just what it was that you liked about her behavior.

Make a habit of saying “thank you” where owed. Generosity doesn’t have to be a “special occasion” characteristic. Let your child know that you appreciate his behavior when he remembers to clear his plate from the dinner table or put his clothes in the hamper. After all, acting responsibly on a daily basis truly is a form of generosity.

Let your child know the results of her generosity. If your family participated in a winter coat drive, or your children’s school has a food drive, be sure to find out how many people benefited from the efforts. It’s one thing for your child to put some cans of food into a box for a food drive. But if she hears “your class provided meals to X number of people,” she will better understand the impact of the generous effort.


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