How to build your kids into givers

Posted Friday, October 10th, 2014. Filed Under My Daily Dose

I am a big fan of Joanne Kates, parenting columnist and an expert educator in areas on conflict resolution, self-esteem and anti-bullying as well as director of Camp Arowhon in Algonquin Park.

She posts article in my local magazine. I wanted to share this article:

How to build your kids into givers, Letting kids master their own world

In the article Kates says, “We can nurture our kids till the cows come home and not produce nurturing offspring. Reason being that children do not magically become pro-social giving beings. They have to be taught to give. Of course there are exceptions – naturally giving people who will be that way no matter what. But most of us need to be taught that habit.”

She goes on to say, “Our generation of parents errs too much to the side of providing for our children. We excel at giving them every little thing they need – and much of what they want as well.” She is talking not just about the items but the intangibles like non-stop validation and reinforcement that we imagine – incorrectly- will grow their self-esteem.

The thing is self-esteem, as Kates says, “Doesn’t grow from being told how great you are. Self-esteem grows from instrumentality, mastery, and usefulness. Three experiences we are bad at offering our children.”

By providing them so much, having their life planned out for them, strewn with roses, we deprive them of the opportunity to be useful, experience mastery, and feel instrumental in the world. As Kates points out that’s why failing a test is such a valuable lesson for you can sit back and find out what you did wrong, where you can improve and make changes. Sitting with your child every night and getting them to do their homework, studying with them, doesn’t help.

Parents help so much that we hinder or as I say, “disable” them.

We want to do good by them, can’t bear seeing them fail so we protect them from failure by trying to prevent it, but in doing so we do not give them the life skills they need to succeed in life.

How did Kates teach her kids to be thoughtful, giving and resouceful

* Children had to cook and clean – when refused to cook they said, “That’s fine, we don’t need dinner”
* If they failed to clean the kitchen after dinner, they lost pre-set amount off next’s month’s allowance.
* Allowance was given monthly and it included clothes and entertainment. Once spent that was it.
* When kids got cut from sports teams, they emphasized but did not confirm either the kids’ excuses or the coach’s incompetenc.
* The cleaning lady didn’t enter their rooms unless they had tidied them beforehand.
* Homework was 100% theirs – as were any consquences associated with not doing it.

Kates calls these daily decisions, I call them life choices and skill set – being able to make decisions, accepting resopnsbility and accountability and over all being resourceful.

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