By Dennette Bailey

I recently had the opportunity to give a tour to a family looking for a preschool for their child and when I greeted them at the door the 3-year old boy said, “look I got this rock for you.” I was elated and amazed (I happen to be a rock collector of sorts). This youngster thought it was so important to present me with something, that he literally picked up a rock from the grounds of the preschool to present to me. I told the parent that I was very impressed with her child’s thoughtfulness and that his thoughtfulness said a lot about how she and her spouse are raising their son.

Many, like myself, have probably heard conversations by those who complain that young people in our culture today seem to be more selfish or not considerate of others. As a parent and an educator I can attest that teaching children to be mindful of others will have lasting results when it is taught and modeled early.

The holiday season is an excellent opportunity to introduce the concepts of kindness, thoughtfulness, and giving to young children. The following practices can be utilized during the holidays and throughout the year to help your children learn and practice, well into their adult years, how to be kind and considerate of others.

  1. Talk with your youngsters about things that you need help with, (developmentally appropriate of course) such as help folding clothes or setting the table. Often times we may give these tasks as chores but we don’t express to our young children how their completion of chores helps the family be a better family or helps another family member be better in some way.
  2. Express gratitude when your children do something that is helpful to the family or people outside of the family. Adults certainly feel motivated to do more kind acts when they feel appreciated. Young children will benefit greatly as well when they feel useful as a result of helping, and this usefulness will encourage them to practice kindness and express more consideration of other people. So, remember to say thank you to your children.
  3. Participate in demonstrating kindness and acts of giving with your child. Be sure that your child feels that they are actively involved in the process. For example, if the adult makes the cake and the children just hand the cake over to another person, that act does not give the children a full experience of being kind and giving. However, if the children actually take part in making the cake and preparing it for giving away, they will feel invested in the process. My own child as a youngster liked to participate in the tipping process at restaurants. However, she was of course always just leaving the pennies that she had in her little purse. I would always make sure to get the waiter or waitress attention and explain that we were not being rude but that our young daughter felt the need to be a part of the tipping process. So, take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

Lastly, I would suggest that when adults receive something from a youngster, it may in many instances be something that an adult might not need or even want. Nevertheless, be mindful that if we are going to raise a generation of people who are considerate, we have to show young people appreciation when they give of themselves the little that they have. It really is the thought that counts.

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