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How to Teach Your Kids Generosity

posted: 06/02/15
by: Courtney Reimer
Kids collecting items for disaster relief
iStock

If "no" is one of the most popular early words for children, "mine" isn't far behind. Being generous with others seems to not come naturally (or at least not quickly) to children, but with a little guidance, you'll find they are usually quite receptive to your lessons in sharing and looking out for their fellow human beings.

Here are some tips on how to help your kids go from "hey, that's mine!" to "how can I help?"

1. Pile on the praise when you see them sharing. This is something Babycenter recommends, and I have to say this technique has already paid off bigtime with my preschooler and toddler. Though I feel like I'm going overboard at times with the "that is SO nice when you share with your sister!" compliments, it sure is rewarding to see your kid hand her last cracker to her younger sister.

2. Be a good example. I know, this one applies to just about everything with kids, who often tend to do as you do rather than as you say, but it really is key with more nuanced concepts like giving. Even if you need to playact with your spouse (e.g. loudly asking when they're in earshot: "honey, would you like me to bring your phone upstairs for you?"), or very deliberately drop coins into the tip jar when you're at the coffee shop together, chances are they'll follow suit next time.

3. Talk to them about the importance of thinking of others. This one probably works best with kids beyond the "mine mine mine" preschool years, but try putting it in a perspective they'll understand. For example: "Someday you might forget your umbrella on a rainy day, and you don't like to get all wet, so if you need to lend yours to a friend, think of how happy it's making them feel."

4. Make volunteering part of your everyday life. Busy parents probably don't think they have time to volunteer, but when you make it a group activity -- everyone to the soup kitchen! -- it can be really beneficial (to the soup kitchen as well as your children's values). If that is too daunting, you can start by volunteering to clean up after the school party -- you're going there anyway, so might as well make the most of it.

5. Don't push too hard. This one comes from one of my favorite parenting tips sites, Aha! Parenting. Keep in mind that no one really enjoys doing something they're forced to do, so the more you make generosity feel like fun -- maybe make up your own "generosity dance" -- rather than a chore, the more you'll see cooperation.

Above all, know that it's something every parent needs to work on, so if your kid reverts to a "no" state, don't worry. They're growing every day.