Does your child express a little more “me” than “we”? It’s normal for kids to be egocentric, but the scales seem to be tilting toward lots more “me” than “we” in the child-centered, media-saturated culture that children are raised in now.
In fact, the University of San Diego has found a 30% increase in narcissism in incoming college freshmen.
If raising a kind-hearted child who cares for others is one of your goals, try these three tips from the newly released book 20 Great Ways to Raise Great Kids.
1. The two-praise rule
Michele Borba, one of 27 experts featured in 20 Great Ways to Raise Great Kids shared this story:
One of Michele’s friends used a “two-praise rule” every day for 20 years with her two daughters. Before her kids left the house she’d tell them, “Say or do two kinds things for someone today. Then at dinner, please share what you said and how it worked.”
Every night at dinner they’d discuss the acts of kindness they had bestowed on others. This mom raised two of the kindest kids you could possibly imagine. Why? On a daily basis she reinforced the message that kindness was a top priority. She parented with the end game in mind: She wanted to raise kind-hearted young adults, so she reinforced that value on a daily basis.
2. Ask your kids to name five things that they’re grateful for each day
Hoping to find a way at bedtime to stay connected to her teenager, Toni Schutta, author of 20 Great Ways to Raise Great Kids, shares a story in the book about creating an attitude of gratitude at bedtime.
Toni had received the gift of a small rosary from a friend who visited a holy shrine in Medjugorje. Toni proposed that each night at bedtime her daughter could name something that she was grateful for as her fingers paused on each of the 11 beads on the rosary. Then Toni would take a turn saying 11 things that she was grateful for that day. Her daughter loved it so much that some nights she would go around the rosary several times. On a nightly basis, Toni felt connected to her daughter in an authentic, heart-felt manner and her teenager was reminded of her many blessings.
As an added benefit, research from Martin Seligman and the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center indicates that people who regularly practice the art of gratefulness can increase joy, happiness and life satisfaction by recognizing at least five things they’re grateful for each day.
3. Incorporate the “special plate” into your mealtime rituals.
Another ritual shared in 20 Great Ways to Raise Great Kids is called the “special plate.” The original idea came from Lynn Ticknor, a mom who sent the idea to FamilyFun magazine. The “special plate” is a ritual that promotes kind-hearted words and gestures within the family on a daily basis. Here’s how to do it:
Pick a special plate that looks celebratory and different than your usual dinner plates.
Place the special plate in front of one person at the table and that person will eat off the special plate that night. At the start of the meal, other family members take turns thanking that person for something that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Examples:
- “Thank you for grocery shopping for our family last night.”
- “Thank you for sharing the truck so nicely with your brother yesterday. It made him so happy.”
- “Thanks for playing Legos with me yesterday.”
The next night, it’s another person’s turn to eat off the special plate and receive thank you messages.
Then the next family member is special the night after that, etc. until all family members have been “special.” Then you family begin again at the top of the line-up and keeps the ritual going as long as you’d like!
It’s a wonderful way to start a meal on a happy, thankful note and help others feel appreciated. As an added benefit, Ticknor noticed an increase in kind gestures among her kids.
If your goal is to raise a kind, generous child, make a concentrated effort to include these three rituals into your daily routine.
© 2013 Toni Schutta, known as The Parent Coach Who Gets Results. She’s an author, national speaker and psychologist with 19 years’ experience helping parents find solutions that work so families can be happier and more peaceful. Go to www.getparentinghelpnow.com/myfreebook to get your free copy of 20 Great Ways to Raise Great Kids now and consider making a donation to help prevent child abuse.