Why Giving is Better than Receiving: A Guide to Teaching Children about Generosity
Our children are barely walking when we start to say things like “be nice” and “share” to them. There’s something very familiar, and funny, about a group of parents trying to correct babies playing together. We correct babies and young toddlers because of the watching eyes and the expectation that your child needs to be a nice person. Parents fear that their child will be the jerk in the group and publically make an effort to correct children who aren’t sharing or who aren’t being nice. We’re all guilty of it and so it is socially accepted.
What parents should be focusing on is not only correcting children who don’t share with others but also explaining to them why they should want to share with others. Noone has to do anything they don’t want to do in this life, but encouraging our children to be good to others is something we all strive for.
So how to you raise a generous child? Some kids are just born to give. They’ll give you their slobbery cookie, their stuffed toys, and their shoe. And some other kids are protective of their belongings, especially those cookies. How can you encourage a kid to want to share and give what they have to others?
There are several ways to go about instilling a giving nature in your child. One way to help build a giving nature is to let your child see you giving what you have. When they want your last cookie, give it to them and explain that you want them to have it because it makes them happy, and you want to make them happy. The next time your child has a cookie, ask them if they would like to share their cookie with you. Give them the option not to share, but explain to them that if they share the cookie, you will be happy. Children will associate happiness with sharing…and that’s a good place to start.
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Another way to get your child interested in sharing what they have is to explain to them that others don’t have as much as they have. They would be sad if they didn’t have toys or clothes or food and so they should try to take away some of the sad by giving some of what they have. This conversation almost always comes up during the holiday season: people flock to donation centers and food banks, but the rest of the year there is a real need. Talk to your child about cleaning out their rooms a few times a year and sharing what they have with children who are less fortunate.
Teach your child the value of a dollar by having them save the money they need for something they want to buy. Even if you are just going to pay for it anyway, have your child take the time to earn the money and then have a discussion about how long it took them to earn that money. Talk to them about all the things they couldn’t do because they were earning that money. Talk to them about how you spend so much time working so they can have the things they want in life. Then ask them to take half of the money they saved and donate it. You can facilitate a discussion about how that time spent went toward something good for someone else, rather than another video game…which would have also been great, but is being used for much better things in a donation center.
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Don’t you hate it when parents look at their children and say “say thank you” when someone gives the child something? This is not how to teach a child manners. Your child learns by watching you, not by giving a half-assed salutation because their mother told them to. Instead of coaxing your child into saying thank you, try saying thank you yourself. Thank the person for thinking of you and your child. Make a big deal about the gift or item so that you child sees how appreciative you are. They will come to understand that giving makes people feel appreciated and they’ll want to do more of it.
Before bedtime, ask your child to name one or two things they are grateful for: this works best when you take it day by day, rather than week by week, since kids are pretty hyper focused on the day at hand. Ask them to tell you one thing they were happy about today and why they were grateful for it. Over time, children will come to understand they being thankful for what they have them feel good.
It’s not hard to turn children on to giving and the pleasure it brings to give others a compliment, a present or a smile. It’s so easy to make people happy. We all just want the same thing: we want to know that someone is thinking of us. Giving a gift or a gesture can brighten someone’s day and the more your child sees you doing nice things for other people, the more they will engage in the same activity. Don’t assume that children will want to share and be nice to others. Some people are not wired that way: they learn by seeing and doing.
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Give your child an opportunity every now and then to do something nice for someone or to tag along why you do something nice for someone and they’ll feel compelled to gain the same reaction for their good deeds. It’s true that giving is better than receiving but the real truth is that in giving you are receiving a wealth of good feelings and satisfaction.
When you are having a bad day, do something nice for someone and see how your day – as well as theirs – turns around. When your child is having a bad day, take them to do something nice for someone. It takes the focus off of us and puts it on someone else. What a great way to help the world go round!