12 Ways to Teach Kids How to Be More Grateful and Giving
It's never too early to teach your kids to be more selfless, and we've got the tips to help you do it! By YLONDA CAVINESS (12 Photos)
Take Baby Steps
It's not just you. We all want our kids to be more grateful. But this material world is all about living large. Kids get the message from TV, pop music, even in the toy aisle. Here's the good news: Taming their "gimmies" -- and turning them into givers -- is easier than you think. Here's how.
Take Baby Steps
You've heard that old saw, "charity begins at home," right? What that really means is that kids learn how to be charitable when the adults in their lives are charitable toward them. "Children learn to be caring and concerned about others when they experience these things for themselves -- everyday," says Elizabeth Berger, MD, child psychiatrist and author of Raising Kids With Character. Instead of encouraging them to commit to time-consuming volunteer projects (or boring them with soapbox speeches), just focus on the regular -- but super-important -- stuff like validating your kids' feelings, spending quality time together and being an engaged listener.
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You probably won't be taking your toddler to volunteer at the soup kitchen any time soon, but even the youngest kids can get involved in giving back and learn to have a giving spirit, says Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. Just start small. "Little acts help kids pick up the true spirit of giving," she says. So find fun ways for your littles to get involved: have them add sprinkles to a batch of fresh baked cookies for the neighbor whose family can't visit for Christmas, and then deliver together. Or have them make wrapping paper for Grandma's Christmas present and hand it to her.
"The secret is to look for fun little ways to involve your children in giving to others -- wrapping presents, baking cookies, picking out one special gift to get them into the merriment," Borba says, "and make sure they hand deliver the gift so they can hear the 'thank you' and see the pleasure on the recipient's face."IMAGE SOURCE/GETTY IMAGES
“Guilting them into action is not a very effective strategy," says child psychiatrist Michael Brody, M.D. "You don't want giving to come from a sense of obligaion." As an alternative, focus on the good your child can offer. Say, “Wow, remember how you once loved that toy? You’re such a big girl now; it could make a little kid very happy.”GETY IMAGES
Make it Fun
Making a difference is empowering. And what little person doesn’t want to feel like she makes a difference? “It builds their confidence,” says Maggie Jones, former executive director of Children for Children, a U.S. group that offers volunteer opportunities and service-learning programs for kids across their country. ”That spirit of giving is sparked when there’s a match of the kids’ interests with the need.” Talk up your child's special qualities and help her discover how her talent can help others. If she's an animal animal lover, for example, check out the World Wildlife Federation of Canada. If she loves her Easy-Bake Oven, encourage her to help you in the kitchen the next time there's a school bake sale. Even the humble neighborhood lemonade stand can serve as an opportunity to give: Your kids can donate their proceeds to a charity of their choice.TOSCA RADIGONDA/STONE/GETTY IMAGES
Talk About Giving
Little kids (big ones, too, for that matter) love to talk about what they want. Around the holidays, especially, it's expected that your tot's focus will be on the presents she hopes she gets. But try reframing the conversation when it comes to gifts, advises Borba. "Turn the word 'getting' to 'giving' -- instead of saying: 'What do you want to get?' Ask, 'What do you want to give?'" It's a simple switch that will help your kiddo learn to think about others' wants, as well as her own.ALTRENDO IMAGES/ALTRENDO/GETTY IMAGES
Party with a Purpose
Help your child choose a charity or cause her friends can join in on. Giving can be a simple element of her next birthday party or play date. Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto offers a donation package for birthday parties, a great choice!STOCKBY/GETTY IMAGES
Read the “Gimmie” Cues
We all get tired of hearing "buy me" and "gimmie." But all kids want stuff. Instead of responding with frustration (or indulging their every whim), Dr. Berger suggests asking yourself, "What are they really asking for?" Just like with grown ups, material things can mask emotional needs. "What they want more than anything is a devoted, generous and trusting relationship with their parents," she says. "When kids don't feel secure in having that, they find a million things at the mall they think they’ve got to have."
So before you give in and buy them the latest, must-have toy -- or feel guilty because you can't afford it -- think about the last time you and your kid had some one-on-one bonding time. If you can't remember, set aside a day for some low-key fun: talking, laughing and just hanging out.
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Just Join In
Scouts, community groups and school organizations all have service components. As kids get older and their peers become more and more important, this is a great way to increase their sensitivity. Once your child is old enough, consider having her join a 4-H club or other youth organization whose values that mirror your own. For more information, start at Scouts Canada.
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Make it a Family Effort
Giving your time and energy as a family will demonstrate to your kids how strongly you value generosity. Look for ways every member of the family can make a meaningful contribution: The Any Canadian Forces Member program will send your letters and care packages to Canadian military men and women free of charge: have your kids help make cookies, shop for goodies and write thank you letters to include in one.LARRY BRAY/TAXI/GETTY IMAGES
The Internet is a great tool for helping kids reach out and make a difference. So if you've got a tech-savvy kid who loves hanging out online, take advantage of his interest and search online for volunteer opportunities. At Volunteer.ca, for example, you can find ways to volunteer in your community, abroad -- there are even virtual options.APPLE TREEHOUSE/RISER/GETTY IMAGES
Gifts are universal kid pleasers. Seek out opportunities that allow your kids to gift other kids.
Many school boards have Adopt-A-Family programs that inspire children to think about what a family wants and needs for holidays, often to survive.TIM HALL/TAXI/GETTY IMAGES
Walk the Walk
Your kids may not always listen to you, but that doesn't mean they aren't watching you. So let them see you do nice stuff as often as possible. Does the woman behind you at the checkout have six little items in her hand while your cart runneth over? Let her cut ahead of you. Just being a good neighbour helps you model random acts of kindness. After all, if you preach sharing and generosity but then cut off the guy in the lane next to you and call him a jerk, the contradiction will make your kid go, "Huh?"
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