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It can be done! Most of us are brought up to see that other people's problems are none of our business. We are brought up to not be an alarmist do-gooder. We are taught to be indifferent or we can become indifferent due to the deluge of the media.(separate topic) It doesn't have to be this way! We all have the potential of The Good Samaritan within us. We can teach our children to be altruistic by...

  • Positive reinforcement

    Self-approval does strengthen and promote altruism.

    When kids are kind, praise them and tell them that they ARE kind. Label them with their behavior. They will see themselves that way and feel good about themselves. They will continue with the behavior to make themselves feel good too.

    (But one kind of reward: Ervin Staub, in Rushton and Soreentino, eds., 1981)

  • REASON with them

    Explain how it makes the other person feel. Help them to see the other person's point of view. (Induction)

  • Modeling

    Children model their behavior based on how their parents treat them. Kind and giving parents lead to kind and giving children. Also, how the children see the parents treating others plays a role. The child internalizes it and makes the altruistic value his own.

    (The effect of such parental modeling: Radke-Yarrow,Scott, and Zahn-Waxler, 1973)

  • Experience

    Spend an hour or so visiting retirement homes regularly or help a sick neighbor or take them to work in a soup kitchen or...you get the idea. Deliberate acts of kindness.

These things do NOT work

  • Negative reinforcement

    Forcing kids to stop being selfish and to be helpful does not change their character. They will behave as they are told if they have a threat hanging over their head. Once the threat is removed, their character will remain. They are not learning to be helpful to feel good about themselves, merely doing it to avoid punishment.

  • Material reinforcement

    Material rewards do NOT work either. Kids are more friendly and cooperative as long as the rewards are given. The reward undermines the incentive. They behave "good" for the reward, NOT for the sake of being good.

    (Children given concrete rewards: Joan Grusec, in Rushton and Sorrentino, eds., 1981)

Most schools and daycare centers nowadays have incorporated a character building program into their curriculum. IMHO,this will not do too much to offset what the child has learned at home. It's up to YOU the parents. It all starts with you.

(info also gleaned from : The Compassionate Beast by Morton Hunt)

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