Tis the season for giving! It should be always the season for giving if we want to see a kinder gentler world for our children. Kindness and generosity benefit the giver as much as the receiver. There is ample research to prove that helping others brings about much satisfaction at all ages. Yet as kids grow, they realize that things can be owned. There is a concept of yours and mine. Children are willing to share, but it is for us as parents to foster that feeling and help it grow so that it becomes a lifelong habit.
So what can we do as parents to inculcate generosity in our little ones right from the start?
Be what you wish to see. As always, remember that as a parent you are under observation at all times. Little kids worship their parents and wish to emulate them all the time. So be generous and share as you wish them to share. If you think courtesy is contagious, so is generosity.
Make sharing fun. The more the merrier must be your mantra with them. Is there a toy to be played with? Two can have more fun with the same toy car pushing it to one another than just one child playing with it. A football is more fun when you have two teams. A see saw is no fun with just one.
Talk about other people needs and wants in a generous way. If they say they want chocolate in the grocery store, it is fine to agree with them, but also make them think about what daddy or grandma may like. Going out to eat? They can choose but others must get a chance too.
Talk about sharing and selfishness. How would you like it if someone never shared a toy with you? Did you feel nice when someone gave you their toy? Talking about sharing and selfish behavior is making them think about their actions.
Teach empathy. Help them think about how the actions of others feel. Your friend also likes to play with the same sort of toys. She would like a turn as well, just like you. It helps them put themselves in the shoes of others.
Create opportunities. This especially works for slightly preschoolers and older. If they love something, let them use that as giving opportunity. Do they love to read? Let them read to other children who may not be able to. It does not matter if the reading is not as fluent as you may like it to be. The satisfaction they get will outweigh all that.
Practice giving. New toy on the way? Try and give up an older one to someone less likely to have one. Ask the child to pick up a toy they would give away to someone else every time their toy quota exceeds a limit. Everyone is willing to give away what they outgrow, but giving matters when it is something that is still useful to the person.
Appreciate generosity. Whether it is the child being generous or someone else being generous to them or you, make sure you shower appreciation clearly. This will give the right message to your little one.
Do it together. Volunteering is something that can be a fun activity for you and the child to do together. Visit an old age home and read to the residents. Your child will get many voluntary grandparents and also learn generosity.
Build it into your everyday. Generosity is not just about material things. Being generous with time, with our patience and with our intentions is also important. If someone acts in an ungenerous manner, behaving graciously also helps your child learn generosity. When someone cuts you off in traffic, resist the urge to get irritated, speak instead to your child about how someone could be having a bad day.
Be patient. They are young and you are teaching them a lifetime worth of things. Be patient and it will eventually work out.
Like all behavior, practice makes perfect and the more we practice generosity the better we get at it. To loop back to where we started, being generous is the best way to teach generosity. If your child sees you perform little acts of kindness without expectations, you will see them do the same. Don’t we all want to teach our children what brings them a lifetime of happiness? So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and give. It is the season!