How to: Nurture Generosity in Children

The Christmas season is a time of giving, and with this in mind, here are a few tips on how you can nurture generosity in your children this Christmas!

Be generous, and talk about it

Children closely watch and absorb what they see their parents do, so the best way of encouraging children to behave a certain way is by modelling that behaviour yourself. Some research has found that children are even more likely to copy their parents’ behaviour if their parents also explain to them what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Why not show generosity this Christmas and talk about it with your child.

Help children put themselves in others’ shoes

Research has found that children who can take different perspectives and think of others are more likely to share and be generous. The simple ability to understand that somebody’s perspective is different from mine begins to develop in children around age four.

One easy way nurture this is to speak to your child about how characters in books or movies might feel. You could also talk about what people who receive help from charities this Christmas might be going through.

 

Serve meals from a common pot

Children who share family-style meals, where everyone helps themselves from a common pot while noticing how much is left for others, score higher on tests of altruism in adulthood. These situations help to nurture fairness and generosity among children.

Try letting the children be the ones to dish out their meals, and think of other ways you can get them thinking about other people’s needs while taking care of their own.

Help children realise that sharing is rewarding

Research has found that being generous increases happiness. Children as young as three have been found to understand this relation and being aware of this is likely to increase generous behaviour.

You can support this awareness by noticing when a child behaves in a generous way, and then talking to them about how it made them feel. This is also a good way of supporting what is called intrinsic motivation – performing a behaviour because you enjoy doing it, rather than extrinsic motivation – rewarding children for their behaviour, which leads to them performing it because of the reward, and no longer performing it when the reward disappears.

Christmas is a great time to practice some of these tips and think about how we can all be more generous- because after all, it does make us happier!

For a full version of some of these tips and more tips like these, read this article: https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/6-surprisingly-easy-ways-to-raise-generous-kids/

Research articles

Check out these research articles below for more details on the reasoning behind the tips above!

For more information on the benefit of talking to children about giving as well as modelling giving behaviour, see this study: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140197113001589

For more information on the benefit of advanced perspective taking for generous behaviour, see this study: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/desc.12403/full

To see the study that found meals form a common pot to promote generosity, click here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666314004656

For more information on the benefit in preschool children of understanding that sharing is related to happiness, see this study: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/desc.12417/full