One of the most challenging things about being a parent is trying to ensure that you are raising kids who will go on to become the kind of people who make the world a better place. According to the Pew Research Center, most Americans agree that it is important to raise kids who are kind and have empathy for others. So how do we actually do that?
I've thought a lot about this question in terms of my own kids, ages 8 and 4, and I'm totally inspired by the interesting ways, big and small, other families are making sure to raise kids who are kind and generous.
"One of the things we did was build a little lending library in our front yard. Our kids really love seeing people leave books and they get super excited to see other kids come and look for children's books. I think it encourages them to think of giving (since they donate their own books to the library) as something that is fun and feels good." -- Marley R., Saint Paul, Minnesota
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"My 4-year-old seemed to be going through a phase were she was really greedy when it came to wanting more and more toys. I finally figured out that she was using her screen time to watch those awful unboxing videos. Every day she was watching 30 minutes of kids opening toys -- no wonder she was suddenly thinking new toys should be a weekly event. I banned those videos and her attitude has gotten way better." -- Sue T., Holland, Michigan
"The day after Halloween, the kids and I take half of their Halloween candy and divide it up in sandwich baggies. We put in some spare change as well and then we keep them in the car to give out to people asking for help on the street corner near our house. We talk about how it is our job to help people in our community, even if it is just giving them something small. It is more about communicating to my kids that they should SEE the person in need and not look away." -- Sara N., Tucson, Arizona
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"This is a small thing, but I think it will make a difference. Our circle of friends has decided to rein in the birthday-party crazy. It seemed like it was getting to the point where our kids expected these big expensive parties and lots of presents. We've decided to implement a book exchange instead of presents and to go back to backyard parties. Now we do games and cupcakes and each kid brings a book to exchange with someone else. It is simpler; the kids still have fun, and there is less whining about having it at the overpriced bounce house place." -- Gabi F., Maplewood, New Jersey
"Honestly, the best thing I can do to make sure my kids stay grounded and grateful for what they have is to tell them 'no.' We are pretty privileged but I want to make sure my kids don't have the idea that they get everything they want, just because they want it." -- Holly A., Burnsville, Minnesota
"Kind is the main thing I want my kids to be. I try to build that in them by modeling it myself. I don't yell at them and I make sure that they don't hear me making fun of people or cutting people down. Kindness creates kindness." -- Ashley Y., Spokane, Washington
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"I feel like my kids will be grateful for what they have because we are really open about money. I do the monthly bills on the dining room table and I show the kids what the cable and electric bills are, so they know that the TV shows they love cost money. I hope that awareness of the fact that things cost money helps prevent kids who are too gimme-gimme." -- Grace R., Prescott, Arizona
"We have a weekly ritual where I take one kid with me to the grocery store. During the trip, they have to think of something that someone else in the family would like as a treat. I think it is a little way to build the habit of thinking about others." -- Christine S., Saint Paul, Minnesota
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"Our family rule is that when the kids get money, either as a gift or allowance or whatever, they have to set some of it aside in a jar labeled 'something nice for someone else.' They can spend that money however they want -- but it has to be for someone else. My kids have used it to buy each other a gift or for things like donating to the public television pledge drive or the local animal shelter. I think giving them choice is important." -- Amanda D., Colorado Springs, Colorado
"Last year, our family went through a hard time. My husband and I both lost our jobs and money was tight. We ended up being on the receiving end of a lot of kindness from our church and our local community. We're fine now but I use the example of how people took care of our family to encourage my kids to think about how we can help others." -- Vo V., Apple Valley, Minnesota
I love how totally doable all these ideas are!
Image via iStock.com/Christopher Futcher