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Teaching Your Child To Be Generous

We all enjoy doing things for our favorite children - buying them something special, taking them on a fun outing, throwing a great birthday party. At the same time, though, many of us fear that without some balance, most children will grow up thinking only of themselves.

Especially at this time of year - when "gimme-gimme" is a common attitude - what can we do to keep our children in check and teach them that giving to others often feels better than receiving things yourself?

The Saturday Early Show asked Dr. Paul Donahue, a clinical psychologist and author of "Parenting Without Fear," to give us some tips on how to raise generous and compassionate children.

An Early Show producer spoke with Donahue before his appearance on the program and he offered these suggestions:

  • Teach giving, not taking, at home: If kids have opportunities to help at home and contribute in a way that they can, they will learn how good it feels to be givers, not takers.


    1. Helping in the kitchen. Even young kids can make a real contribution to the family meal. Stir the soup, set the table, help to bake cookies.

    2. Older kids can help their siblings: doing homework, reading to them, teaching them sports and games. It's a great way to let kids know they're all in it together, rather than "every man for himself."

  • Teach kids about respect and caring, and be a model yourself: In addition to teaching your kids how to speak to people (please and thank you), and teaching kids how to take turns and to share, parents should always be a model themselves. Respect for others equals caring, and generosity of spirit.


    1. Be polite to see polite - Parents should always speak respectfully to others: to spouses, grandparents, teachers, babysitters, workmen, waiters. Kids are always watching us.

    2. Control your own frustrations in front of your kids - waiting in line patiently at the grocery store, not getting upset when a salesperson makes a mistake, or rolling our eyes at other parents whose kids are misbehaving.

  • Teach kids about contributing to the community: Teach kids that giving of oneself through time and effort is more valuable than giving money.


    Giving food or clothing is great, but kids get more out of a form of giving that has a personal touch, like visiting an elderly neighbor or delivering meals to families through Meals on Wheels will have a lasting impression on children.

    This holiday season, parents may consider reaching out to soldiers fighting overseas. There are Web sites where you can send a gift box directly to a soldier. They like CDs, magazines and DVDs, but what touches soldiers most are letters from children who appreciate what they are doing for us.

    Older kids may show an attitude, but they all do want to be helpful. Just give teens and pre-teens age appropriate activities that they'll enjoy.

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