Is my 4 year old a selfish jerk?

“What about my younger kids… How do I help them learn generosity and the importance of giving back?” This is a question I hear often, especially because Kids Boost is designed for older children. So what about those preschoolers or those early school agers? What can we do to teach them lessons in caring for others and giving back to the community?

There is a reason that Kids Boost is designed for older kids. Younger children are egocentric, meaning they think the whole world revolves around them. This is very normal and to be expected. This is why if you ask a four year old to give away one of their toys, you may see a colossal breakdown occur. That precious child (who is typically very loving) can’t seem to understand why on earth he should give up his toy, even one he never plays with, to another child. In his mind, there is no other child who deserves or needs that toy more than he does. This does not mean your child is a selfish jerk or that he will grow up to be self-centered. This just means he is typically developing child. Again, very normal.

However, there are ways that you can begin to introduce generosity and philanthropy into your young child’s life. First and foremost, live by example. You are your child’s greatest influence. Your child will see you taking dinner to sick friend or donating clothes to a shelter. You may not realize it, but your child is picking up on the things you do. So start by explaining what you are doing and why. Explain why you choose to give blood or why you volunteered at her school that day. Even the small things you do locally will help children see they have the power to make a big difference in the world.

Here are just a few ways that you can start to introduce philanthropy, gratitude and generosity:

  • Have your kids decorate a jar or other fun container to keep on the counter (in eye sight so it’s a constant reminder) for loose change for a local non-profit organization. The family gets to decide where the money goes, so talk to your kids about different options and get them excited about who they will be helping. See how quickly the loose change adds up and then allow the children to actually present the jar of money to the charity.
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  • Ask your child to donate one birthday gift to a shelter or Children’s Hospital. Let them choose the gift and choose the recipient. You may be surprised to see how much they enjoy taking the gift to help another child.
  • Take homemade cards or treats to people in the community who make a difference in your life. This could include the mailman, your favorite cashier at the grocery store or the receptionist at the doctor’s office. Ask your child to think about people in her life who makes her smile and then allow your child to give back to that person.
  • Take food, treats, towels or toys to an animal shelter. Kids tend to connect with animals sometimes quicker than humans, so this may be a great option to introduce the concept of giving to those in need
  • Gather travel sized toiletries and pack them in decorated bags for local shelters or hospitals.

Remember, it really is the little things that often make the biggest impact. You don’t have to have a lot of money or even a lot of time to give back. Stay tuned for more ideas on how to help your family give back to your community.

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