Teaching Unselfishness to Your Children

What does it mean to be unselfish and sensitive? In their book, Teaching Your Children Values, by Linda and Richard Eyre, they describe it as, “Becoming more extra-centered and less self-centered. Learning to feel with and for others. Empathy, tolerance, brotherhood. Sensitivity to needs in people and situations.”

The authors give the following guidelines in developing these traits and character values in your children:

1. Praise

If you notice your child doing something unselfish, heap praise on them to reward them. Let them know that what they are doing is a good thing.

2. Give Responsibility

A Harvard study showed a correlation between the amount of responsibility children have and their tendency to think of others. The Eyre’s caution that a child with no responsibility may become spoiled and begin to lose their sense of caring and concern.

3. Teach by Example and Active Listening

Show children this attitude of empathy in your own actions, by modeling the same behavior and values you want to instill in them. Actively listen to your children by hearing what they have to say, then paraphrasing it back to them so they know you understood it and are concerned with their thoughts and feelings.

4. Say, “I’m Sorry”

If you have made a mistake or were insensitive to your child, let your child know you are sorry for this.

5. Make an Effort to Tell Your Children How the Things They Do Make You Feel

If your children say or do something that hurts your feelings, let them know. And if your children do something good and helpful, let them know that too.

6. Remember that Unselfishness Does Not Come Naturally

According to the authors, becoming unselfish is a process that “takes thinking and practicing and a certain amount of maturity to develop.” Do not expect your children to naturally always think of others first or know how to be empathetic to those who are suffering. It is a character virtue that you as a parent must help them learn.

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