No one wants to raise selfish children. Every father wants to see his kids grow in character and relate well to others. And teaching your children to be unselfish is an important lesson in accomplishing these goals, but it’s also one that many dads struggle with how to teach. So what exactly does it mean to be unselfish and sensitive?
In their book Teaching Your Children Values, Linda and Richard Eyre describe it as “becoming more extra-centered and less self-centered. Learning to feel with and for others. Empathy, tolerance, brotherhood. Sensitivity to needs in people and situations.” Here are 5 ways the Eyres say we can raise kids who are unselfish.
1. Heap praise.
If you notice your children doing something unselfish, heap praise on them to reward them. Let them know that what they are doing is a good thing.
2. Give responsibility.
A Harvard study showed a correlation between the amount of responsibility children have and their tendency to think of others. The Eyres caution that a child with no responsibility may become spoiled and begin to lose his or her sense of caring and concern.
3. Teach by example.
Show children this attitude of empathy in your own actions by modeling the same behavior and values you want to instill in them. Actively listen to your children by hearing what they have to say, then paraphrasing it back to them so they know you understood it and are concerned with their thoughts and feelings.
If you have made a mistake or were insensitive to your child, let your child know you are sorry for this. It gives children a great model for what it means to take responsibility and think about others. Those are two things selfish children rarely think about.
5. Share your feelings.
If your children say or do something that hurts your feelings, let them know. And if your children do something good and helpful, let them know that too.Don’t expect your kids to always naturally think of others first or know how to be empathetic.
Remember the process.
According to the Eyres, becoming unselfish is a process that “takes thinking and practicing and a certain amount of maturity to develop.” Do not expect your children to always naturally think of others first or know how to be empathetic to those who are suffering. It is a character virtue that you as a father must help them learn.
Sound off: What do you do to train your children to be unselfish?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How does it make you feel when your friends are being selfish?”