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I shared this post last year but thought it was relevant considering school is starting again soon for many kids. Selflessness is such a wonderul trait in this self-centered world we live in today.
I want our kids to be thoughtful… thoughtful to others while still being kind to themselves. Here are ten activities to teach selflessness, reminding children to be thoughtful of other’s feelings… even in a self-centered world.
1. Be an example.
You must be an example of kindness if you want your children to be kind to others. My parents were always kind to others. They still are (and everyone tells me this). I have tried to be the same way.
One day when I was tucking in our son at night, he said “Mom, when you helped that man with the cane get out of his car yesterday, Dad told us to look at you and watch how you helped others because he wants us to be like you.”
You could have just stopped my heart right there – how sweet and great to know that they are watching your selflessness even when you don’t know. Be the example that they are looking for… even when you don’t realize that they are looking.
2- Don’t talk about others (gossip) in front of your kids!
SERIOUSLY! They are listening and they are taking it all in like a sponge. They will soon start to do the same. In my line of work, I see this all too often.
3- Say hello to strangers.
This is one of my favorite activities to teach selflessness and this one just might drive my husband up the wall, but I can’t help myself. I say hello to random people and even strike up conversations with the people in line with me at the grocery store. My mom and grandma did this and I always loved to see how it put a smile on the other person’s face. I feel like we have the power to make ANYONE feel special at any time of the day!
4- Be “all there” with your family.
Read that book for the 10th time this week, make blueberry muffins because you know that your son loves them and give them a hug out of the blue. Soon you will see them doing things like this for one another. You have to be present in mind, spirit & heart… not just body.
We grab a card from our ONE-ON-ONE TIME CARDS when we want more inspiration for this activity.
5- Tell them stories about times when you helped someone else.
Kids love to hear things like this, so try to be a great example, even when they aren’t watching. Tell them stories, read books, watch movies… anything that has great examples of kind characters.
6- Teach a man to fish.
Have you heard that quote about “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day? If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime?” My brother told me this quote once when I was in high school (when I asked him to hook up my new computer) and I have not forgotten it.
As an adult, I try to give our children a lot of opportunities to help one another… “Can you show your brother the cool bug that you found? Can you help your sister walk up the stairs?” The more they help, the more natural it will become, and the more they will do it without being asked.
7- LOOK at your child!
Let your child know that you see them and hear them. Let them know when you are proud of them. People love words of affirmation.
8. Help them understand WHY we do what we do.
I tell our kids why I volunteer and how it helps others. Give them opportunities to volunteer with you.
9. Reward kindness.
I use a kindness reward system in our house and it has been AMAZING. The kids are always trying to be nice to earn their cotton balls.
10. Model Integrity.
As C.S. Lewis said, “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.”
This is one of the most important activities to teach selflessness and I talk to our kids about this constantly. If I overhear them saying something nice to someone else, I comment on it.
Most Importantly: Model what you want your children to learn.
When you are kind to your children, they are kind to others because children model what they see.
Be kind to them and they will be kind to others. Talk to them. Sing to them. Hold them. Snuggle with them… tell them nice things and give them opportunities to say nice things to you and one another, too.