Ever get tired of seeing entitlement and selfishness in kids? It is annoying, but so are people who complain about insensitive, lazy, unappreciative “kids today.” Like entitlement was never a problem before this generation and all who came before were models of selflessness. They weren’t–selfishness has been a problem since time began. Where do these self-righteous folks think children learned selfishness? By watching adults! If kids lack sensitivity, it’s because adults have failed to model it. Parents and all of society must demonstrate compassion or it has no right to complain. Children learn empathy, especially with those in need. Here are ways to break children’s selfishness and entitlement attitude and develop empathy, awareness of poverty, sensitivity, compassion and generosity.
Don’t just preach empathy, sensitivity and compassion, live them. Kids model adult and especially parent responsiveness to others. Don’t expect our to develop empathy if they never see it. Walk the walk with kids, don’t just talk the talk at them. Parents, let you children see you donate to world poverty charities. Develop empathy and awareness of poverty by volunteering with your children at nonprofits. Build empathy by working in community outreach. Teach compassion by helping those those in need.
Build sensitivity by breaking the attitude of entitlement. Wealth isn’t a right–it’s a privilege to be grateful for and share. World poverty isn’t something people bring on themselves. It’s a system fail. Some people don’t “deserve” to be poor while others deserve to be rich. Money doesn’t have a lot to do with hard work, in the macro-economic free market capitalist structure. Poor folk may work just as hard, maybe harder, but the system is designed to keep them in poverty, to sustain the culture of affluenza. Lots of people must have too little so others can have too much. Teach empathy–to feel with–the needy, by helping children understand that selfishness and entitlement perpetuate poverty.
Live in solidarity with the poor. The best way to develop empathy and awareness of poverty is to experience it. Children need to feel lack sometimes, to appreciate plenty. It isn’t necessary to give up everything, but there should be some sacrifice. Real giving should hurt. If kids give only from excess, they don’t feel it. Live simply that others might simply live. Get out of debt, cut cable TV, give up cellphone, video games, salon visits, luxuries–for one month. Fast and give up treats for awhile. Donate what you would have spent.
Use sensitivity training experiences. Kids who live with plenty often misunderstand “poverty” as not having the newest i-gadget or toy. They aren’t selfish, just untaught. Develop empathy and awareness of poverty by walking them through under-privileged areas. Serve at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter (bring items to donate). Discuss what you observed and experienced. Note the contrasts between your comforts and others’ lacks. Give thanks for what you have.
Tag hobbies to giving. Do your children love to make crafts? Have them sell crafts and donate the money to a mission. Do your children play sports or participate in arts? Look for volunteer opportunities to work with kids need. Get them involved in music, arts or sports activities that give back to others. Host a benefit concert or a charity playoff. Giving of talent and time is as important as donating money.
Teach empowerment vs. enabling. Instead of breaking the cycle of world poverty, some charities perpetuate it by handing out rather than helping out. It really is about teaching a man to fish or providing him the tools to fish, rather than just giving him a fish. Look for missions that empower, like Global Girlfriend, which supports cottage industries of women and mothers around the world.
Teach children discernment of need. Not every person who claims to be poor deserves help. Not every charity is legit. Sadly, there are scammers who make it difficult for others who are really in need. Giving to panhandlers isn’t a good idea. There’s no way to assess where the money will be spent or if the need is even genuine. Look for trusted organizations to give to. Teach children to evaluate need, help judiciously where they feel led and trust their instincts.