No one wants to be ‘that guy.’ No one wants to raise ‘that guy’ either. And, as much as we could debate nature vs nurture for hours, we can all concede, it’s a little of column A and B. We all want to hedge our bets and do everything we can as parents to ensure our kids lead happy, healthy lives. Plus we want them to become the best possible versions of themselves. But, how can we do that? How can we help them become socially responsible and positively contribute to the world?
Like anything, leading by example is a great place to start.
Be the kind of adult you want your kids to grow up to become. Include them in activities that will build those positive characteristics. Things like service projects to help children to learn and get in the practice of doing good for others. Point out to your children the results of positive choices. Not just from the actions they/you have taken, but ones you may notice other people doing. When children link actions to positive outcomes, and notice that they too ‘feel good’ for doing something nice for someone else, they will want to experience that feeling more often. This leads to more positive choices.
My Mum always said, ‘you can’t water a garden, without getting wet yourself.’ You grow, by helping others grow. Bringing joy to someone’s life, only increases your joy. As kids develop a habit of helping people, with no expectation of reward, they learn selflessness and will discover the reward is in the action itself. By filling another’s cup, their cup becomes full too.
Travelling through Africa, I discovered an African Philosophy called ‘Ubuntu.’ It is often translated as “I am because we are,” or “humanity towards others.” This has become my favourite word and way to live my life.
In Desmond Tutu’s book: No Future Without Forgiveness, he explains Ubuntu as ‘the very essence of being human.’ If someone has Ubuntu, they are generous, hospitable, friendly, caring and compassionate. They share what they have. “A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others. They do not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.”
In a world which is becoming more and more individualistic, the concept of interconnectedness is so important to learn. Imagine a world where everyone lived by this principle? Here’s a bunch of ideas to help develop these positive characteristics in yourself and your children.
To develop kindness
You can design your own or use our PakMag ‘Kindness Cards’ or ‘Neighbourhood Notes’. Use these to sprinkle kindness around your neighbourhood. You could also decorate ‘kindness rocks’ (painted with positive messages) in random locations and walking paths around the neighbourhood to bring a smile to someone’s face. Random acts of kindness are also great. Everyone loves a surprise and a ‘kind surprise’ is even better.
Perform a daily good deed
Big or small, doing something for someone else daily, teaches children to think about others. This could be for a family member, friend or neighbour. Talk about your “daily deed” at the dinner table at night.
Plant a garden
Children learn to be their own Lorax… taking care of the trees, (and fruits and veggies) they will grow. Respect and kindness just isn’t for people… nature deserves it too.
Help children to become conscious consumers and teach them about living sustainably
‘There is no such thing as “away”. When we throw anything away it must go somewhere.” – Annie Leonard. Recycle, sort through clothing/ toys to donate to a shelter or charity shop. Learn how to sew and mend broken items.
Set an appointment daily to show gratitude
It could be around the dinner table taking turns to share what each family member is grateful for that day. Write letters to people you are grateful for, this is a powerful exercise (for both the reader and the writer).You could also download our ‘PakMag Gratitude Guide’ and write down the things you are grateful for and place it where you will see it daily to remind you of all ‘the good’ in your life.
Teach your children about other kids who are making a difference and remind them that they can make a difference too
Belief in oneself is a powerful force. No matter the age, everyone can make the world better. In the words of Tim Minchin from Matilda the Musical ‘even if you’re little you can do a lot, you mustn’t let a little thing like ‘little’ stop you. Think of an ant, it’s super small, but it can lift 10-50 times their body weight. That would be like an average adult human giving a cow a piggy back! Everyone has limitless potential.
Kids can champion a cause
Kids are like ‘injustice detectors’ with a strong sense of right and wrong. They may see the news or be aware of the struggles others experience in the world and want to do something about it. Your children may have an allowance or earn money from doing odd jobs – they can donate to a charity they want to support. A little can go a long way.
Service projects give us an appreciation of how much we have to be thankful for. When you spend time trying to make someone else’s life better- yours automatically improves too. Clean up a beach, pick up litter on a walk, plant some trees, deliver meals-onwheels. Kids doing something real, for real people will show them they can make a real difference. Check out Kids Giving Back, Volunteering Australia or Go Volunteer .
Be a good neighbour
If you haven’t done it yet, introduce yourself to them. Smile and wave every time you see them. Find out about them, see if they need any help or assistance. This could be bringing in the bins, walking their dogs or even a card and meal if they’ve had a surgery.
Making friends can be harder for some people more than others
It’s particularly hard when kids are shy. The most important thing a child can learn is to become the kind of friend they want in their own life. Listen, share, and care about others feelings, be reliable, use kind language and do nice things for others. It’s always nice to teach kids to look out for the lonely kids, and include everyone. A friendship circle always has room for more.
Read more of our parenting blogs here.