As a parent, sometimes your child will ask you a question or behave in a certain way and you’ll think “How do I respond to that?” or “How did I get taught that you shouldn’t do that?”
This is one of the biggest challenges involved in being a first-time parent; struggling to know the best way to educate your child on morality and courteous behaviour. One difficult topic to teach is the concept of charity and being generous. This is particularly hard if you have an only child who isn’t used to sharing with a sibling or close family member.
Whilst every parent is different, just like every child, there are still a few techniques that you can use to make teaching this lesson easier. The aim of this post is to help anyone who is struggling with this topic and with any luck, you’ll feel a little more confident about addressing this subject with your child by the end.
First things first, do your research. Children are innately curious. They’re great at asking questions you simply can’t predict, worded from a place of innocence rather than malice. As parents, we need to make sure that we have an answer to all the questions we can, without getting flustered, confused or even worse, angry.
There are countless articles, news sites and blogs that detail why being generous is important; use these pieces of content to try and prepare for all the potential questions you could receive. We aren’t supercomputers that can predict every eventuality and prepare for it, we’re human, so whilst research is essential try not to treat educating like a test. There is no set answer to any question about morality. Don’t be afraid to trust your instinct and bring up the topic with your little one when you think it’s most appropriate.
This is one of the most challenging aspects of child development. It’s very difficult for young children to understand how others feel as they are naturally individualistic (over time they develop and learn how to do this according to Piaget’s 4 cognitive stages for child development), which makes explaining why you should be generous very difficult. Why should they give away what they have if, in their mind, they are the only person who feels emotions?
In this situation, emphasising empathy is the best way to help your little one to understand. Ask them to imagine how they would feel and use their response to push your point without sounding accusatory. Imagining how an action might affect themselves is the best way for any child to understand what is right and wrong.
Just like all people, children react better to a personal touch. Using facts and behaving like your word is law may work for some children, depending on their personality, but it could have the opposite effect with others. Use anecdotes and stories to help humanise the lesson you’re trying to teach.
If you can’t think of a personal story that fits into your dilemma, consider using charities as an example. Explain why charities are important, why they do what they do and what the people they help are going through to emphasise the points that you are making. This shows that you’re not just plucking rules out of thin air, you’re explaining concepts that apply to everyone.
By utilising these three techniques, you should have a much easier time teaching your child or other family members about sharing and generosity. The number one rule is that anger is often counter-productive, stay calm, speak clearly and you should be able to explain your point much more easily. Good luck!