As a parent we always worry about how our children are going to grow up. Did we set them on the right path? Do they know right from wrong? Did I teach them all that I could? Watching some of today’s teenagers and adults, we worry that our children will add to the narcissism of the Me Generation. We want our children to be different. We want our children to make a difference, to be part of the solution not the problem, to be part of the We Generation. With the onslaught of consumeristic messages this can be easier said than done; so this article will give you a clear path to follow to help develop the kind-hearted child that you envision and avoid the spoiled brat.
The easiest way to encourage generosity in your children is to model it yourself. When your children see you being kind and helpful, they will see it as the norm. Being generous does not have to be a difficult, scary responsibility; it can and should be joyous and lead to positive feelings that make you want to do it more.
Being kind and polite is the first step. Helping others can be as simple as sharing a smile. Be sure that you introduce “please” and “thank you” at a young age and expect even the wee-ones to use courteous language. As they get older, you can move on to more chivalrous gestures like holding open a door. Many people say the chivalry is dead, but I think it is only dead if we let it be so. Encourage your children to always look for ways to help others.
The next step takes a little more thought and action, but not much. Like with the chivalrous action of opening of doors, if you keep your eyes and ears open you will find all sorts of needs in your community. Mr. McGregor may need a hand with leaves in his yard or Miss. Church may not be able to shovel her walk. These helping hands are perfect ways for the pre-teen / teenager to both show their independence and really help out.
Helping out can be a family affair too. The whole family can work at the soup kitchen or collect food for the food pantry. Perhaps all of you can take a mission trip. Showing your kids that helping others is a priority in your life too will say more than any lecture.
As they continue to get older, try to find ways to blend their interests with helping. If they really like art, perhaps they can help with an art program in the children’s ward at the hospital or be a docent at a museum. If they really like books, maybe the library is the place. If they aren’t a public personality and prefer to work in the background, there are opportunities for them too. Many organizations need help stuffing envelopes or sorting items.
Furthermore, consider involving your kids in programs that support service. Groups like Scouts, church youth groups, National Honor Society all encourage children to help others. It is good when this message of service to others comes from more than just you.
You can also watch tv shows and read books that tell about others who give. Let your children see the benefits that others have reaped from their service. Kids like to know that they are powerful and can make a difference. Seeing how others have done this is inspiring and may encourage them to follow suit.
While encouraging them yourself is a good start, don’t be afraid to have their horn tooted for their good deeds. Perhaps you can send an article to the paper about their service or submit their name for a local service award. Encourage them to attend recognition events held by the organizations that they volunteer with. If your youth becomes very involved in volunteering, they should track their service. It will become very valuable on college applications and if they have accrued enough hours, they can even apply for the Presidential Service Award. While we should not do service with the thought of a reward at the end; it is ok to receive a reward for the work you have done.
Helpfulness should extend to their pocketbooks too. Encourage your children to donate to worthy causes. This can start when they are young as part of their allowance or perhaps with the money you collect from returning cans. As they get older donating should be part of their budgeting plan. When you work with your children to set up a budget be sure to include a philanthropic line item. Let them do the research and figure out which non-profits they find worthy, and then help them to plan a regular giving schedule.
I am sure as your child learns to help others, he or she will find himself / herself more satisfied with his or her own life. Helping others reminds you the blessings of your own life and helps you realize the worth of your being. Kids often feel like they are small and ineffective. When they help change someone’s life and have a clear understanding of what they have done, they will feel an incredible sense of accomplishment and grow their self-esteem. Helping others can help you more than those you help.