The other day, I took my children to Chick-fil-A. While my youngest child was in the play area, my oldest child ate his strawberries. Naturally, when the three-year-old came out of the play area, a meltdown ensued. When questioned why he ate the strawberries, the six-year-old responded, “I ate all mine and I wanted more.” He didn’t stop to consider who the strawberries belonged to or how his younger brother would feel when he discovered that his strawberries were missing. Instead, he was only thinking of himself.
At first glance, the lesson he needed to learn was, “Don’t take things that don’t belong to you,” but his response showed me that there was a deeper lesson to learn – considering the feelings of others.
It’s a tough world. Even from a young age, kids are encouraged to stand up for themselves, to be the best, and to work hard to get what they want. Within that conversation, we also need to take time to teach kids to not think only of themselves, but to think of others. This goes beyond the random acts of kindness and donations of charity that regularly make the news. It involves thinking about how our every day words and actions affect those around us.
So where do we begin? Here are a few articles that I think do a good job of helping parents and teachers encourage children to think beyond themselves and start thinking about others:
- Are you raising nice kids? A Harvard psychologist gives 5 ways to raise them to be kind
- Focus on the Family: Raising Caring Kids
- 11 Ways to Raise a Compassionate Child
All of our resources at Building Kids Character have components of empathy, caring, and compassion built in to them, but parents and teachers should take time to regularly emphasize these traits in children and take advantage of teachable moments, such as my own strawberry-stealing moment at Chick-fil-A.