Editor's Note: The following is an edited version of "How to Help Kids Learn to Love Giving" from Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. Click the above link for the complete essay.
|Children enjoy holiday giving|
During the holidays, opportunities abound to help kids understand why and how to help people in need, with food drives proliferating and countless organizations making pitches for end-of-year donations.
And there’s scientific evidence that kids should be receptive to those messages: Research suggests that they have a deeply rooted instinct to share and to help others, from the time they’re very young—one study even found that toddlers enjoy giving to others more than they like getting treats for themselves. Kids, it seems, have a strong, natural drive to be kind and generous.
1. Be a role model—and explain why you do what you do
Research stretching back decades has found that kids are more likely to be kind and generous when they have at least one parent who models that behavior for them. But more recently, research by Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm of Indiana University has underscored that it’s also important for parents to have conversations with their kids about generosity.
2. Help them understand the need
For kids to feel compelled to help others, first they have to recognize that their help is actually needed.
Here parents can tap into kids’ strong—perhaps innate—propensity for empathy, which enables them to pick up on the emotions and needs of others. Studies suggest that kids are more likely to help people in need when they try to see the world through their eyes or identify things they have in common. A personal, human connection to someone makes that person’s needs feel more real, harder to ignore, and thus motivates us to alleviate his or her suffering.
3. Help them see the impact
A significant finding from research among adults is that they’ll derive greater happiness from their generosity—and thus be more motivated to give again—if they’re able to see the impact it has on others.