Teaching Your Kids Generosity

“Mine!” is one of the most dreaded words in a toddler’s vocabulary. One day, your little cherub is all smiles and giggles, but the next day he won’t let you touch anything because it all belongs to him. Say goodbye to your shoes, your phone, the TV remote, and anything else within his tiny grasp ― you aren’t going to get it back until you teach him generosity.

Personal ownership is a complex concept, but many American kids learn it young. That’s why it is important for parents to start instilling the importance of sharing as soon as their little ones can speak. Whether you are already stuck in the “gimme-gimme” phase or you expect it to come any day, here is a handy guide to help you and your kids learn to be charitable.

Teaching Your Kids Generosity
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The Benefits of Beneficence

In adults, generosity is an abundantly advantageous trait. People who give more are more likely to be happy and healthy for most of their lives. The act of giving strengthens connections to family, friends, and the greater community and fosters a positive environment for emotional and economic growth. Generally, generous people are more successful in life, and there is nothing a parent wants more than to see his or her child succeed.

Getting Generosity Started

Kids learn their greediness from somewhere ― and it’s probably from you. Many child psychologists assert that children are natural givers, which means selfishness is a learned trait. You might consider yourself an unselfish person, but you could be subconsciously teaching your child materialism and egoism without realizing it. Therefore, before you can cure your kids of the gimme-gimmes, you might need to address your own behavior.

Materialism is a bad habit that causes absurd amounts of stress. The more possessions you own, the more responsibilities you have, and the harder it is to take care of everything. Thus, one of your first steps on your path to selflessness should be purging your home of superfluous and unnecessary belongings.

Going room-by-room, you should locate items you do not use, need, or want. Storage spaces are excellent places to start; you and the family can devote a day to sifting through boxes in your garage or shed. You shouldn’t neglect large items, either; mismatched or broken furniture, antiquated appliances, and vehicles like cars or boats can be donated to worthy causes. You don’t have to downsize to a minimalist lifestyle, but you should realize that you likely own much more than you need. This activity will demonstrate to your kids that you intend to become more generous and act as a role model for their future behavior.

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 Getting Kids to Give Back

Communication is a parent’s best tool for encouraging change in children, and you should use it to your best ability when you are beginning your quest for generosity. Before you can foster your kids’ desire to give, you must inspire their empathy. Then, you must provide ample opportunities to give throughout their young lives, so they can practice selflessness sufficiently.

Kids don’t always realize that other people are like them, so it is imperative that you impress upon your little ones the concept that everyone has needs and wants, thoughts and feelings. You can do this everywhere and anytime: when you see an elderly person at the grocery store, a blind person in the park, a homeless person on the sidewalk, or even able-bodied kids around the neighborhood. You might ask your children to imagine life as someone else and consider what they would need or want from other people.

In the beginning, you may need to coerce your child to give, rewarding his or her sacrifice with small treats or praise. However, with enough explanation of why giving is important, children often begin practicing generosity in small ways on their own. You might notice your little one sharing his or her toys with a sibling or giving away his or her dessert to a school mate.

You can further engage their desire to do good by participating in charitable giving. You should allow your kids to choose causes that interest them, like sick children or animal welfare. Then, you should work together to build an appropriate donation, which might require a neighborhood toy drive or the long-term saving of allowance money. Eventually, your children will begin participating in charitable activities on his or her own ― and by then, you’ll know you’ve successfully conquered the gimme-gimmes.

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