|With the holidays here and their associated gift giving, our children’s ability – or inability – to give and receive graciously becomes clear. But it’s important to know what to expect from them at different stages of development with regard to being generous, understanding the importance of sharing, and learning to become more considerate towards others.
As our brains mature, we begin transitioning from being primarily self-centered to being more empathetic and considerate of the needs and emotions of others. Research suggests that the ability to exercise impulse control, make decisions, and think beyond oneself typically develops between the ages of six and 13. As a result, younger children tend to naturally exhibit more self-centered behavior.
As a parent, therefore, it’s important to consider these changes and how best to mentor your children as they move through their toddler years into adolescence and their early adulthood. The prefrontal cortex, associated with impulses and making choices, is the last part of the brain to mature, explaining why you may find yourself banging your head against the wall if you’re repeatedly having to encourage your child to be less self-centered. Rest assured, though, that every little bit of encouragement helps; it all goes towards helping their brains in forming the vital connections they need to navigate society. Here are a few techniques you can try as you guide your children.
Emphasize sharing. Teach them that sharing is an integral part of life and benefits all of society.
Encourage them to volunteer. Having selfless acts as a part of their general routine helps to build an understanding of the benefits of doing things for others.
Lead by example. If children see you regularly acting kindly, they’re likely to naturally begin emulating that behavior.
Talk to them about current events. For example, if a disaster has struck somewhere in the world, talk to them about the experiences and emotions of those caught up in it.
Establish boundaries. If they’re showing selfish behavior, explain to them exactly why their behavior is unacceptable and negatively affects others.