We seem to be living in the midst of a ‘ME’ generation where all thoughts are for what is in it for oneself. Children are constantly being bombarded by advertising for the newest and latest ‘thing’ and are being swept along by the aggressive consumerism of our times. Children are naturally competitive and this lends itself even more to the idea that they are the only important person around.
Interestingly, the development of the ‘ME’ mentality hasn’t brought increased happiness or fulfillment to children; in fact, the reverse appears to be true. However, helping other people actually improves self-esteem and pride in oneself, as well as bringing happiness and that simple ‘feel-good’ sensation.
We need to help today’s children to understand the importance of helping other people, and how this can help us, individually, in return. Here are 8 strategies that will help you to inspire the children in your care, so that they feel motivated to help other people.
- Lead by example: children pay close attention to the actions of the adults in their lives, so it is important that we live what we teach. From an early age, children need to see that we care about those around us and that we are willing to go out of our way to help other people. Allow them to see that it is normal to be kind, to be helpful and to make an effort to be of service to other people. Show them that simple acts of kindness actually make you feel good. Demonstrate that the world is truly a happier place when we all help each other.
- Practice good manners: good manners are the simplest strategies for being kind to people. When children are expected to say ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome’ from an early age, it becomes a habit that will stand them in good stead throughout life.
- Smile: “a smile is the shortest distance between two people” is an old saying that says it all. A smile makes two people happy and it is such a simple thing to give away. A smile can brighten another person’s day and costs you nothing.
- Gratitude: being grateful for what we have makes us appreciate our lives and helps us to see ways in which we can help others. Teaching gratitude to children helps them to see different ways they can help others.
- Look for different ways to help other people: encourage the child to think of their own ways of being helpful; they may surprise you.
- Teach respect for others: children need to be taught about respect and what it means. Talk to your child about respect for adults, for other people’s possessions, and their personal space, for people’s feelings and differences.
- Make sure the helping is age-appropriate: small children will be able to be helpful around the home and to family members; older children can be helpful within their community as well as in their home and school. Look for organizations that have helpfulness and community service as part of their activities, such as youth groups, Scouts and Guides.
- Praise: recognition and praise go a long way to rewarding a child who has been helpful. Even though we don’t want them to expect a reward, heaping on the praise goes a long way towards encouraging a child to repeat the desirable behavior.
- Donation: encourage children to donate to a worthy cause from their own pocket money or to give away unused or outgrown toys to needy children. Older children could come up with ways to make extra money that can then be donated to help other people.
The future of humankind is in the hands of the children and so we need to teach them how to make a difference in the world. Help your children to make inspired choices to benefit other people and to become members of the new ‘WE’ generation.