Ways to Help Your Child Develop Empathy and Generosity

This post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life by Dr. Laura Markham, author of  Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.

One of the main reasons given behind forced sharing is to help children learn empathy and generosity. While forced sharing actually teaches the opposites of these traits, here are some ways to help children develop those attributes:

  • Photo by cogdogblog (Flickr)Empathize with your child. Empathy starts with an understanding of self and putting feelings into words. Help your children do this by talking about feelings: theirs, yours, and those of others.
  • Model empathy and generosity. This sounds like a given, but our children learn so much from our own actions. Model these actions and your children will pick up on it. Discuss with them why you do certain things so that they can know the thought process behind your actions.
  • Point out similarities and humanize others. We often relate better to others with whom we share something. Help children recognize similarities with others. Use current events as a way to humanize victims so that children are better able to understand.
  • Expose your children to other cultures and points of view. Read books. Go to events and venues celebrating diversity or diverse cultures.
  • Ditch the punishments and rewards. These extrinsic motivators require a child to focus on self. Instead, talk with your kids and work with them to come up with solutions to problems which work for everyone.
  • Volunteer. Learn about giving to others by volunteering your time to a local organization or to individuals.
  • Participate in random acts of kindness. This helps children to think about others in the moment and to help out where they can.
  • Actively listen to your child. children who are heard and understood are more likely to listen to others. They are also learning the skills that you model.
  • Connect with your child. Children who feel connected to a loving adult feel better about themselves and treat others with more connection and caring.

It takes children time to develop these skills. You can’t force it. You can, however, nurture it.

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