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By Carol Surya, author, psychologist, game developer and workshop facilitator. Her practical parenting book, ParentMagic – Raising Kids stems from  experience gained over the last 20 years working with children and their parents worldwide. You will find her company, Raising Kids Positively on Jozikids and Kznkids

Neurosurgeon and author Ben Carson puts it well when he reminds us that “Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give”.  In today’s material ‘give-me’ world of instant-gratification and self-absorption, it’s easy to lose sight of giving, and complain about our kids being selfish.  We get frustrated when they don’t want to share or do anything for us, their siblings or others.  What’s amazing though, is how quickly, and naturally children become generous when they’re given a bit of encouragement.  Consciously building their generosity is a great way to build children’s self-esteem. In helping others, they feel that they’re making a positive difference.  Think of a six year old who makes something to give someone less fortunate.  She feels a sense of contribution, self-acceptance, self-value as well as a sense of belonging on a broader scale.

When children are given plenty of opportunities and encouragement to be generous, they naturally become more helpful and caring, developing loyalty and compassion for others.  A good starting place to help children understand what it means to be generous is to teach them the importance of sharing, and talk about how you feel when you give.

Ideas for building generosity :

  • show them caring acts – share hugs and smiles
  • encourage gift making and giving – give to those less fortunate
  • comment positively when they are generous – this will motivate them to keep on giving and being kind
  • encourage spending time with someone – reading a book together or playing is another form of giving
  • create a “gratitude jar” – let them say, and write down, what they feel most grateful for each day, before putting the note in the jar
  • talk about what you’ve done to help others – at dinner or even while driving in the car (and let children say how it makes them feel to help others).
  • visit a senior citizens’ complex – offer to sing, dance, perform a concert or visit a lonely person regularly
  • visit and pet animals at an animal shelter
  • collect refuse for recycling or reusing for creative gifts
  • let them bake cookies or start a project for a charity
  • donate unwanted toys and clothes to a local children’s shelter
  • look out for community projects and causes to become involved in
  • ask them for ideas of what generosity might look like – e.g. giving a gift on someone’s birthday, or sharing a toy or a snack.

These easy ideas go a long way to develop generosity, which in turn helps them feel grateful (and even cope better with challenges).  The wonderful part about strengthening your child’s generosity is that it automatically strengthens yours.  By putting some of these tips into practice, you’ll also start feeling more grateful, which improves your self-esteem too!

Remember with a little bit of effort, any habit can be unlearned, and your kids can become far more helpful, kind and generous than you could ever have imagined.  Make the changes yourself first.  Lead the way and let them follow.

Click here to find charity organisations in Johannesburg and here in KZN.

Note: If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the uniquely detailed free weekly newsletter for parents in Gauteng – Jozikids – or KwaZulu-Natal – Kznkids