By Logeetha Balakrishnan
1. Teach them how to share
For many kids, the concept of sharing is quite alien. And it’s not their fault. Many are growing up in comfortable and privileged environments, thanks to the success and hard work of their parents.
While it’s not wrong to satisfy their every want, children need to understand the concept of sharing; giving up a little of what you have so that someone else can enjoy it too. It can be sharing your last piece of chocolate, your favourite toy, or even your time, the concept remains the same.
It is too easy these days for children to grow up with a sense of entitlement. They might never truly understand what it is feels like to save up for something they want, let alone suffer without knowing when their next meal will be. By teaching them to share, they will start becoming aware of how not everyone has the same ‘toys’ in life. This in turn teaches them to embrace the concept of giving and sharing more easily.
2. Set an example and get them involved
It would be a hypocritical if you encourage your child to share when you don’t practice what you preach. Children learn from their parents’ actions so showing them what you are doing will be much more effective than telling them what to do.
Make monthly commitments to volunteer at a local organisation and get your child involved too. It will be a great way to bond with them while showing them how to be socially conscious.
3. Paint a smaller picture
I read an article by Amy Freeman on Huffington Post which accurately described how I felt when I watched Michael Jackson’s Earth Song music video when I was around 7. It made me devastated. I would lock myself in a room and cry buckets of tears because they used to show elephants dying and I simply couldn’t stand feeling so helpless and to watch that much of suffering.
What I realized after reading the article was that big ideas like ‘Save the Trees’ or ‘Stop World Hunger’ makes children feel helpless. Children are perfectly capable of empathizing but show them small ways in which they can help; donating their old toys books is a great way to start.
4. Make a routine and value their efforts
Make these endeavours to help the needy a family tradition; just like going to the church or having dinner together during weekends. These little routines eventually become part of the child’s way of life and will be carried on by them with minimal effort. It also establishes that the family takes pride and places importance on these activities. Thus when you give your children something to do or a certain role to play, it will make them feel like their part in this is important and a valuable one. This in itself will become the reward they seek for doing something. Giving extrinsic rewards, such as promising extra TV time or a dinner out for helping others will go against the purpose of instilling social consciousness in them. Their rewards should come from the act of giving itself.