Sharing Goodness: Teaching Kids to Be Good People in the World
It isn’t hard to find a ton of examples of just how mean people in the world can be sometimes. From television, to movies, and even politics, there are many people who have simply forgotten what it means to be a good person.
In my free time, I spend a lot of time volunteering in my community. Whether it’s cleaning up a park, picking up litter off the streets, or just making phone calls to get things in the neighborhood fixed, I’m doing my part to improve the quality of life for the people around me. For me, I’m driven to leave my community and maybe the world a little better than it was given to me. That should be the goal for everyone in this world. But when there is no one to show you how to be a good person, when life seems to constantly throw curveballs at you, or if you never see how your good actions affect others, it’s easy to understand why some people simply don’t care.
My parents raised me with the notion that “you are no better than anyone else and no one is better than you.” It’s a piece of wisdom that I carried with me throughout my adulthood and I think is something most kids should hear. It’s the basic And as I grew up, I realized there were lots of people who never heard that same wisdom and their actions proved it.
In a world where so many people are struggling to get by, and where poor mental health is becoming its own pandemic in the world, it’s important that kids are not only raised to know what’s important but also what it means to be a good person. Good kids grow up to be good people who want to share goodness in their community.
But how can parents go about helping their kids to be the best people they can be. The trick is to start young and taking a look at the world around you. See the things you don’t like about the world and teach your children how to be better.
Be the Example
Your kids will never know what it is to be a good person if they never see one in their lives. That means you have to lead by example. Don’t display the behavior you don’t want them to repeat. Think of children like a sponge that is constantly soaking up information. They will repeat everything you do or say; just ask any parent with a toddler. Do your best to be the type of person you want your child to be and show them the importance of helping others and not being selfish.
A Little Fib is Still a Fib
Everyone has told a little white lie in their life. We lie to avoid having to do something we don’t want to do, lie to avoid something embarrassing, and even lie just because the truth would hurt to admit. But even if you justify a little white lie as something you say to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, a lie is still a lie. It’s best to teach kids to avoid lying, even little ones. This may be difficult at first because kids are prone to lying at a young age, but with enough persistence, kids can keep the lying to a minimum or they can avoid telling big lies that could get someone hurt. Good people are always honest, even when honesty might not always be the best policy.
One thing we can say for certain about the state of the world is that there are far too many people who fail to practice basic manners. Being a good person starts with having basic manners, such as knowing when to say “please” and “thank you” as well as a host of other common phrases. There’s also a bunch of other common actions such as holding doors open for people, offering to help before you’re asked, saying sir and ma’am to people, and having respect for others. These are pretty basic things that a lot of us take for granted. But it’s easy to forget that many people are never taught these things.
Volunteering Builds Character
Like I mentioned before, I spend quite a bit of time volunteering in my neighborhood. A great way to show your kids the importance of giving back is to simply take time out of your day to volunteer with your child. Whether it’s helping to serve meals at a shelter, picking up trash with a group of people, or helping out at your local church, volunteering shows your child the world always needs people who are willing to lend a hand without being asked. Volunteers are selfless and are glad to help others. While you’re volunteering, explain to your kids that sometimes the world needs a little help, and they should always be willing to lend a hand when they can.
Donations Teach Selflessness
We can’t always give our time, but we can give in other ways. The next best thing is to donate to charity. There is always an organization in need of things such as money, toys, food, or supplies. Work as a family to gather donations or raise money for a charity to show your kids the importance of giving. This is an important time to explain that sometimes people fall on hard times and it’s always good to be able to share what you have with someone who needs it.
This can usually be easy for little kids to understand if you explain it to them at their level. For example, when they have far too many toys and some they don’t play with anymore, tell them there are kids without any toys at all who would love to have them. When they make the connection that there are kids who don’t have nice things, they tend to be more willing to give things away.
Even as you teach your children to manage their money, you can encourage them to put money away that they will give to a charity or cause of their choice. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money, but it should be enough to show them the importance of charity and remind them there are many people in the world who must go without the thing they take for granted.
Recognize Good Deeds but Not Too Much
Positive reinforcement works best when you’re trying to help your kids develop good habits. When you hear or see your child do something good either around the house for someone else, let them know you’re proud of them and how happy you are about what they did. Even if it’s as small as cleaning up their room without being asked, starting a load of laundry for you, unloading the dishwasher, or anything that shows they’re trying to help, thank them and let them know you appreciate it.
But on the other side of the coin, you don’t want to praise them too much. At some point, kids shouldn’t need to be praised for doing the right thing. That doesn’t mean it should never happen, but positive reinforcement is really best for children who are learning to get into the routine of making positive, helpful decisions. As children get older, this type of behavior should be second nature to them and they shouldn’t always need to be praised for doing simple things. However, that doesn’t mean if your kid donates thousands of dollars to charity or does something incredibly awesome for their community they don’t deserve at least that extra piece of cake for dessert.
Learning Lots by Being Social
As a people person, I’ve run into a bunch of different types of people in my life. I’ve learned to recognize those people who are comfortable with conversation and those who aren’t. I’ve also learned to recognize those who would appreciate help and those who would complain about a sunny day.
By being social, kids can better understand how to be respectful and helpful to others. They can strike up conversations and learn how other people practice good manners and how other people handle situations. Being social also means knowing how to great someone respectfully with either a handshake or a tip of the hat if you’re fancy. It allows kids to practice the good manners you’ve been teaching them such as holding open a door for someone, helping to carry things for someone in need, or simply how to behave and interact in certain social situations. The better kids get with being comfortable around people, the better they will be at putting their skills to good use.
There are tons of different ways parents have taught their kids to be kind, good mannered people and far too many ways to list in this blog. If you have suggestions on ways parents can teach their kids to be great citizens and good neighbors, leave a comment below and join the conversation!