Encouraging generosity in your child

Demonstrate generosity

Children take most of their cues from their parents. When they consistently see you being generous, they will instinctively want to copy your behaviour. Explain your own more munificent decisions aloud: 'I got two of the same CD's for my birthday. I could take one back to the shop and exchange it for a different one, but I know my friend likes this band, so I think I'll give it to her."

Discuss other people's wants and needs

Your aim should be to make your children aware of a wider, less egocentric world. Begin by demonstrating how they might consider the needs of friends and family members. When she says, 'I want chicken for dinner tonight!' you might respond by saying, 'I know your friend Tim likes chicken too. Why don't we ask him to join us?' That way you're saying, in a gentle way, 'Think about others.'

Show that you disapprove of selfishness

Reprimands that are firm and consistent - but not harsh - will teach your child how the family feels about generosity. 'I don't like it when you keep all the toys for yourself,' you can say. 'In our family, we share. It would be nice if you would let your sister play with some of them too.' Try not to resort to punishment, which will probably only make her more insolent, not more generous.


Whenever your children do share, tell them how happy that makes you feel. 'I'm so proud of you for sharing your break with the new boy at school,' you can tell him. 'That's a great way to make new friends.' He'll feel good about earning your approval and making someone else happy, and generous behaviour will come naturally to him.

Illustrate the value of volunteering

Teach your child generosity on a community level by getting involved with a charitable activity, whether it's helping at an old people's home once a week or taking biscuits to a housebound friend. Bring your child along so she can see how real people are affected by your actions. Having witnessed such generosity at work, many children will be inspired to volunteer themselves. If she wants to join a fundraising activity or take toys to the children's ward of your local hospital, encourage her and let her know how proud you are.

Don't discount other factors

If your child is finding it difficult to be charitable, think about what is going on in her life. Has your family just moved house? Is her best friend away on a holiday, or has a favourite pet recently died? Sometimes a child will react to change by clinging more tightly to a beloved possession or selfish behaviour. Try not to get frustrated - just give her the time and support she needs to work through what's really bothering her, and save the lessons on sharing for later.

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