Selfishness is not a foreign human expression, we are actually born selfish.
We come into this world hard-wired to look out for number one. If you don’t believe it, spend some time hanging out with a toddler. One of the first words they typically learn is “Mine!” which they use liberally to claim the toy, snack or person they desire. So how do we teach our kids to overcome what seems to be such a natural inclination and be unselfish by thinking of others first?
Start early. Because it’s such a natural impulse for children to think and act selfishly, correct these behaviours early and consistently. When your children are toddlers, simple explanations, such as “you have to share and be kind,” or “we don’t snatch a toy from our friend while he’s playing” will do. The reasons why will come later.
Build a culture of sharing in your home. Sharing is a habit just like a lot of other things. Share meals together. Share chores together. Share your time. A parent can lead by example and model selflessness in a way that makes practical, everyday sense to the kids. (Example: Dad usually takes out the trash, but he’s working late this week, so mom takes it out for him, without complaint. You can point back to this example when one child needs to help out another with chores because of external factors. The message: We’re a family. We’re in this together.
Praise a generous heart. If you think character traits like generosity are just as important as academic achievement, act like it. When you observe one of your children modelling selfless behaviour, make just as big a deal of it as you would an “A” on the big math test. The child who is praised will be encouraged to continue doing the right thing, and siblings will get the message as well.