In Parents' Coaching, Parents' Tips

How to Raise Altruistic Children With No Selfishness


Most children have a tendency to act with selfishness, putting their desires above the needs of others. Children are not born with a generous nature; they need to be taught to be kind and considerate of others. The good news is that most children are capable of learning these traits and putting them into practice. Unselfish, caring children are happier, friendlier and a joy to be around.

Selfish Definition

Most people would define selfish as being self-centered, egoistic and inconsiderate of others. Selfish people think only about themselves and their personal wants and needs. Everything else takes second place in life.

A selfish child can easily offend others by his self-centeredness and egotistical ways. He’s seldom interested in sharing, listening to others or trying to help meet other people’s needs. His whole world revolves around making himself happy, even at the expense of others.

Selfishness is part of human nature, although it’s not a character trait that will help people build better lives. It isolates you from others and keeps you from establishing strong family ties or friendships. Nothing good can come from living a self-centered life.

By teaching your kids to be considerate, helpful and kind, you equip them with traits that will open many doors for their future. Children who are kind and considerate will be accepted everywhere they go. They will be a joy to teach at school and will be welcomed by neighbors, family and friends.

Why are Children Selfish?

Although young children can be selfish by nature, sometimes parents foster this behavior in their kids through unwise actions or attitudes. Michele Borba, a specialist in child education and advisor to Parents magazine, offers the following reasons why your child may be acting selfishly.

  • You may be spoiling your child to compensate for your lacks.
  • You may lack a disciplinary standard to curtail selfish behavior.
  • Your child is copying your selfish behavior.
  • Your child may feel jealous or neglected and is using this behavior to get attention.
  • Your child may be going through emotional difficulties that make it hard to think about the needs of others.

By digging deeper into your child’s behavior, you may discover that situations or circumstances at home are contributing to his or her selfishness.

Tips for Curbing Selfishness

As a parent, there are various measures you can take to help curb egoism in your children. Teaching children generosity is a challenging experience that requires a great deal of consistency to get the results you desire. The following tips can be helpful in accomplishing your goal of raising unselfish children:

Start Early: The earlier you start in your child’s training, the better. Keep in mind, however, that children develop the skill of sharing at different ages and stages of their life.

Self-centered behavior is fairly common for a child of toddler age. In fact, one of the first words many toddlers utter is “Mine!” The “Toddler’s Creed” pretty much sums up a toddler’s attitude and mindset at this age. By the time your child becomes a preschooler, however, his understanding of sharing should be better. Parents should take every opportunity to help their little ones hone this skill during times of play.

Use Examples from Stories: As your children grow, you can explain more in-depth the concept of sharing. Connecting your child’s behavior to real life stories helps children understand the importance of learning to share.

End Entitlement: It’s not unusual for children today to have the misguided notion that they are entitled to whatever they want. Many kids use this concept of entitlement to justify their selfishness. If they have a right to new clothes, cool toys, fancy gadgets, etc., why should they have to share them with others? Smart parents will do away with this false concept and behavior early on, before it has a chance to take hold in their kids’ lives.

Set the Example: Like any other character trait, altruism is a habit that children need to cultivate. The more practice they get in this area, the easier it becomes. As a parent, you can encourage an atmosphere of sharing at home by setting the example for your kids to follow. Your example of giving and showing kindness and consideration to others will not go unnoticed. Over time, your kids will begin to imitate your actions.

Give Feedback: Children thrive on positive feedback. Whenever you see them sharing or being considerate of others, take time to praise them for their altruistic behavior. Your praise will give your kids greater incentive to look for more ways in which to show kindness to others.

Make Selfishness Unacceptable Behavior at Home: Selfishness should not be tolerated in your home. When making home rules for unacceptable behavior, make sure selfishness is at the top of the list. Restate your disapproval whenever your kids act selfishly with one another or with friends. If need be, explain again and again to your kids how selfish attitudes are hurtful and destructive. Eventually, your persistence in not tolerating this behavior at home will pay off.

Set a Standard and Stick with It: Set a behavior standard for your children and expect them to uphold it. Refrain from indulging your children or allowing them to get away with unkind behavior. Selfishness is often a byproduct of kids who are pampered and spoiled. By expecting your kids to uphold a behavior standard, you can nip selfishness in the bud before it takes root in your home.

Teach Your Kids to be Gracious Receivers: Learning how to receive from others is also part of unselfish living. Teach your children to respond graciously when they are given gifts or compliments or shown acts of kindness. Your kids should never take gifts for granted, even from family and friends. Every gift should be received with thankfulness and appreciation for the kindness that is bestowed.

Children don’t learn selflessness by accident. If you want your kids to grow into considerate, caring adults, you’ll need to invest in their character training. By teaching your kids empathy, you help them understand the needs and feelings of others. This is the first step towards their developing a compassionate nature.

Why is Sharing Important?

Sharing is caring. It’s a means of showing others kindness, consideration and respect. Sharing is a life skill that children will use throughout their entire lifetime. School provides children with many opportunities to interact with teachers and peers. Children who practice kindness and consideration at home will have little trouble adjusting to the school environment. In contrast, children who act selfishly at home will find it difficult to make friends and get along with their peers.

The ideal is for selflessness and sharing to become part of a child’s lifestyle. By making these traits a habit, kids will automatically act the right way in situations that arise. In school, your children will be expected to share, take turns, treat their peers with respect and consider the needs of others. Sharing and consideration are important character traits to learning and growing in the school environment.

Children who learn generosity when young carry this virtue into adulthood to further enrich their lives. Altruistic people are some of the happiest people in the world as they have discovered that giving is the secret of joy and fulfillment.

Instilling habits of sharing and kindness in your children will take time. Don’t expect your children to change overnight. By planting seeds of kindness daily, you will eventually transform a “me-first” lifestyle into one that is thoughtful and concerned for the needs of others.

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