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Tips for Teaching Altruism to Children

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Creative parents look for opportunities to teach their children about character. An important character trait in the healthy social development of children is altruism. Gift giving during the December holidays of Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa can teach children what it means to be altruistic. Concrete learning takes place when kids give up something, such as money or time, for the benefit of another person. Parents enhance the child's understanding when they explain to the child why it's important, in the context of their religion or beliefs, to give to others.

Parents who model altruistic behavior by giving to causes that support underprivileged families know the joy of watching their child emulate them when the child buys a toy for a needy child or collects canned goods for a food drive. Children also benefit from the self-esteem and sense of belonging that comes with contributing to their own community through a service project.

Tips for Teaching Altruistic Behavior

  • Pick a child-sized community service project. Toys for Tots, Shoebox Ministries, and Food Drives are easy for kids to relate to. The child can make a small contribution and feel good when he sees that his toy or can of food is part of something important. Even putting one of his quarters in the Salvation Army bucket is an altruistic accomplishment for a young child.

  • What do you do with your child's good, outgrown clothes and toys? Winter break is a good time to sort through your child's stuff and give away the good, outgrown items. Give them to a friend or relative, or let your child go with you to deliver them to a clothing donation organization.

  • Some children have a gift for altruism. It correlates with a strength in interpersonal intelligence. As your child gets older, encourage this gift with opportunities to help in community service projects that she chooses. She might enjoy participating with a group that promotes service projects for kids, such as Scouts or church. Be an enthusiastic supporter of you child's interest in helping others. You are laying the foundation for a healthy adult of good character.

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