Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Teaching generosity, gratitude, caring, and responsibility to children

If gratitude us such an important quality in life, how to you rear children to experience this in their lives. I have a series of three articles, each with a different slant and a bit repetitious, that give guidelines for parents on how to do this.

How Children Learn To Care For Others - Part one         

How do you raise children to be kind, courteous, responsible, trustworthy, caring young adults? To be a kind, caring individual in the lives of others, children need the basics of self-esteem - a belief in one’s own competence, a sense of being worthwhile and significant, feelings of being loved and cherished, and a sense of being socially connected and a valued part of a social group.

Parents, churches, schools, positive childhood friendships and opportunities for service all contribute to the development of a moral perspective. If the basics are in place, what additional ideas can parents use to promote the social awareness and moral development of their children?

The importance of reasoning. Children need to get to the point where their beliefs and values control their own behavior. They need explanations and reasons on why they have to obey certain rules, regulations and guidelines in the family.

By nature, children are egocentric. They understand their perspective and feelings while not appreciating other’s feelings and perspectives. Often they lack understanding of how others are impacted by what they do. Parents can explain to their children the frustration, hurt and other emotions that they and others feel when a child’s behavior is inappropriate.

Much of the understanding of morality comes in the give-and-take of childhood friendships and interactions with siblings. Children should be encouraged to associate with friends of high caliber. Open communication with children helps parents give timely guidance on conflict situations.

For example, when we had more than one child at home, insults, put-downs and personality attacks on siblings and parents were not tolerated. When children reach late adolescence and young adulthood, they still need reminders to communicate with us as parents with respect.

Explanations about the moral world they live in help a child to think through and evaluate their own behavior. Then they can come to feel deeply about what they think and value. It is important to draw out, listen and challenge children's reasoning at their level of understanding.

If children know a "why," they are on the way to governing their own behavior. Punishment given in the heat of the moment and often without explanation makes a child feel sorry for him or herself.

The amount of discipline should be just enough to get the result. This allows the child to realize his or her behavior and the resulting consequences are their own choice. Too strong a discipline takes the focus off the behavior and puts it on the fairness of the consequence.

Being responsible in the family. Belonging to a family involves certain duties and responsibilities to the group. Children need to respect and care for each other and to be held accountable for how their actions affect others. Chores and other regular family expectations contribute to family well-being and a predictable and enjoyable home life.

Children do well when a lot is expected from them. These demands for maturity, given with warmth and support, help children learn to feel needed. They respond with commitment, effort and satisfying results. They grow in self-esteem and as an appreciated member of the family.

Working together for common goals is another way that children learn mutual support and helpfulness. The problem belongs to everybody and everybody’s help is needed.

Working for common goals requires mutual trust and respect, communications, specific responsibilities and coordination of effort. The good of the whole family is taken into account.

Participatory decision-making. When children have a hand in setting the rules and standards they live by, they feel more obligated to live up to those rules. The spirit of shared responsibility makes a difference in how committed and accountable they feel.

The child’s viewpoint is valued and taken into account. They also learn that others have opinions and that sometimes it is not easy arriving at a consensus.

Dialogue can lead to mutual problem-solving, compromise, negotiations or a willingness to agree to disagree. This ability to take the perspective of another is crucial to treating others in a morally responsible manner.

Parental example. When parents do good things for their children and others, modesty is not the best policy. When our children were at home, my wife and I went out of our way to provide nice things for our children. We also didn’t mind reminding them of the favors we had done for them.

Relationships are two-way affairs. Though the scales were not evenly balanced, we expected that something was to be given back.

Expecting something back isn’t always easy. Our affluence made it easy to give and left fewer ways for our children to contribute.

Parents who are generous and responsive to another’s needs will affect their children’s lives. Children should know about their parent’s charitable donations and gift-giving. Of course, taking credit for good deeds isn’t necessary outside of these teaching moments with our own children.

Service projects that include the whole family teach concern for others. Having children spend their own money for birthday gifts and Christmas presents teaches them what it is really like to give.

Within the family, deeds of generosity and service to others should be common knowledge. Children absorb their values, not so much by what parents say, but by how they live.

Copyright 2010 by Val Farmer




Guiding Children To Be Generous And Loving Adults - Part two   

"The covetous person lives as if the world were made altogether for him, and not he for the world; to take in everything and part with nothing." - Robert Smith

Would you like your children to be warm, empathic, generous adults someday? Would you like teamwork, caring and cooperation in the family? How do you do that in a culture that incessantly promotes wealth, fame, consumption and competition as hallmarks of success?

Children are self-centered enough by nature. The job of helping them fit in as a member of society is difficult. If parents are fortunate enough to have comfortably secure financial lives, they are tempted to give advantages and experiences that have the unintended consequence of creating greed in their children's lives.

Parents shoot themselves in the foot by doing too much for their kids. Despite having tremendous benefits, their children grow up feeling in the midst of plenty - like a person in water and still thirsty. They want more and more. There is greed in their eyes. They have no concept of living without or scraping by and still being happy. They are not prepared for a lifestyle different from their parents.

Here are some guidelines for raising children to appreciate the worth of things in their lives. These suggestions will help them to be tuned into others’ needs as well as their own - regardless of the income of their parents.

Example. Parents can set a good example of living within a budget that has the basics covered without the push to acquire more and more extravagant "needs" and experiences. Parents can also show by example how to be generous with their time and means in helping causes and people less fortunate than themselves.

Collections. Be careful about encouraging collections. Collecting can encourage an obsessive attitude about having the best and the most. Collections can add to the enjoyment of life if they are handled lightly and disappear as interests change.

Sharing family responsibility. Children need to do regular work in the family as a part of being in the family. Work brings happiness, self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment that can come in no other way. Work expectations should be high and consistent. Children learn responsibility in the home. This responsibility could include watching out for the welfare of younger siblings and taking care of pets.

Money and perks. Children can be given opportunities to work, earn money and purchase the special things they want with their own money. The disposable income they have should be generally in line with other teenagers but not excessively so. Teenagers don't need new cars, the finest clothes or the latest "toys" of society.

Teens will excel in life by hard work and not by appearances. If they pay for their extras themselves, they may make the connection between their own work and the rewards they get from it. In that way they learn the value of money and how hard people have to work in society to meet their needs.

Excessive rewards in life, not tied to their work, will promote feelings of entitlement and privilege. They grow up with high expectations and are not prepared for hardship, struggle or making ends meet. The same could be said for experiences and entertainment. Elaborate dates, dining out and expensive larks can lead young people to wonder what else is there to do when they have done it all. It is a recipe for boredom and trouble when they finally reach young adulthood.

Giving gifts. Children can spend their own money when they give their parents, siblings and friends a gift. It will mean more if they have earned the money for the gift themselves. Allowances and work opportunities should be sufficient to allow some of their savings to be spent in this way.

Pitching in during tough times. Don’t protect them too much. Let them share in cutting back. Children grow when they sacrifice something for the family. When a family works together and all pitch in for something special, it creates special bonds.

Friendships. Childhood friendships are often the proving ground for learning basic morality of give and take, fairness, sharing, loyalty and reciprocity. If left on their own, childhood friendships teach that meeting the needs of others is important if friendships are to be maintained. Parents can facilitate healthy friendships so that these important lessons are learned with friends with high standards.

Respect for others. Children can be taught not to put down or make fun of those different from themselves - starting with their siblings. Too much teen-age humor is based on establishing their own importance at the expense of tearing someone else down. Help them to not be snobs or prejudiced.

Opportunities for service. Youths need opportunities to serve the less fortunate and to meet and interact with young people from different backgrounds. Cultures other than our own have much to teach about love, generosity and sharing.

Belonging to an organized church and to service groups provides opportunities for young people to experience the joy of contributing to others. The joy of service is learned through sharing time and talents as well as money.
Copyright 2009 by Val Farmer 

Teaching Children To Become Responsible And Caring Adults  - Part three

Each child is an individual. There is no "cookie cutter" formula that works for every child. Children come into this world with their own unique genetic makeup, temperament, personality and challenges.
Each child learns differently and has particular needs. Successful parenting requires enough time, energy, structure and close attention to know each child as an individual. Here are a few pointers for teaching your child responsibility.

1. Draw on your bank account of love. Build on the attachment bond gained through meeting their needs. Then don't be afraid to be strong when there are problems. Sometimes it is unpleasant. Don't be afraid of their displeasure or rejection. Remember it is only temporary.

2. Be a good example. Work has meaning and rewards. Talk about the excitement and challenge of your own work and point out the work you do for the family. Children need to see their parents' work as a contribution to family life, not as a burden or a source of isolation and distance.

3. Teach them basic principles. Explain the purpose and meaning of why certain activities are important. Take time to reason with them. Listen to them. Be clear about standards of responsible behavior, i.e., alcohol and drug use, sexual behavior, automobile use, respect for the law and control of temper.

4. Give them responsibilities to teach them responsibility. Teach them while they are young. Be sure to give them tasks that are appropriate for their age and development. This takes gentleness, energy, time and commitment. Work along side of them. Teach them your standards and help them to take pride in their work. Make family fun a part of their reward. "When the job is finished, we will get to do . . ."

5. Hold children accountable for quality and completion of work. This will take follow through and consequences. The rules and consequences need to be discussed and clearly understood. Consequences need to be applied consistently in a matter-of-fact fashion. Positive reinforcement such as approval, praise, recognition, privileges and material rewards help create work habits.

Work comes before play. There are many diversions and entertainments that can interfere with chores and homework. Watch out for slippery kids. Stay with it. Split up responsibilities so children can be held accountable individually for their actions.

6. Don't over commit or over schedule them. They need time to be responsible in the home. They need to be responsible for things other than what is in their own self-interest. Teach cooperation and working for the good of the group while they are young. After about age 14, they will be caught up in their own activities. At that point, they need to take more and more responsibility for themselves.

7. Minimize conflict. Mistakes should be treated as learning experiences. Some mistakes should be made while children are in the home. Allow for freedom of decision-making. Encourage and support them. Help them set goals and evaluate their own behavior.

Pick your battles. Help them have good memories of childhood. Don't go overboard on teaching responsibility at the expense of your relationship with them. Children need balanced lives with time for play, relaxation, friendships and recreation.

8. Encourage interests and activities. Give them opportunities to develop work habits that develop talents and skill-building activities such as music, art, sports, drama and other forms of competence. Children make sacrifices and learn self-discipline in order to meet their obligations to the team, teacher or group. Likewise, participation with youth groups such as Boys Scouts, 4-H, FFA, church groups, etc., helps build responsibility and leadership.

9. Be an advocate with the school to insure successful experiences. Be aware of your child’s homework and level of accomplishment. Give constructive help early so he or she will not fall behind.

10. Teach them the value of money. Children need to know how much work is involved in making money. Don't give them too much. Let them work for perks and extras and share in purchasing items they really want. Help them see the difference between needs and wants.

Let them share in gift giving in the family with their own resources. They need to learn the principle of sacrifice and delayed gratification. An allowance can be an effective tool for helping children learn to manage money. Competitive employment has its own discipline and requirements for responsibility. It also provides income that they can budget and provide for their own wants.

11. Teach them respect for property. They need to return what they borrow, take responsibility for any damage on items being returned or for any losses. They need to ask permission before using something that isn't theirs.

12. Give them opportunities to serve others, especially the less fortunate, outside of the home. This will also let them gain a perspective on their own lives and the relative value of their blessings and privileges.

All these points shade into related topics such as teaching children to care about others, respect for authority, teaching morality and values, openness and honesty in communications and self control.

Parenting is the most complex and demanding responsibility adults have - and potentially one of the most rewarding when children finally reach adulthood. The hard work, hassle and uncertainty fade into memory and are supplanted by joy in posterity and warmth of family connection. It is worth it.

Copyright 2008 Val Farmer

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this - I love to read in print the ideas in my mind - =D