As our country is busy un-decking their halls of boughs of holly, how can we be sure our youngest generation keeps the true spirit of the season alive throughout the year?
Helping children maintain a spirit of giving to others begins simply by having good character. As a family, if you’re only supporting others on #givingtuesday, giving will be a hard concept for your child to understand because it isn’t experienced as a habit. By finding ways to allow our next generation to tangibly experience the positivity associated with doing something good, we begin to establish honorable character traits such as empathy, compassion, respect, and kindness. To lay the foundation of good habits, my three step advice is as follows:
- Make character a year-round experience: In our school and in our home, we use something I developed called a “Character Champion Band”. Each month we recognize a specific character trait (such as kindness, respect, responsibility, etc.) Kind of like conditioning training, we use these bands to make these acts a habit. We have active discussions regarding the characteristics and“flip that band” each time a child demonstrates a positive act associated with that trait, helping to identify the desirable behavior and offering an immediate reward and recognition to the child.
- Immerse them in a giving experience with you: Let your children experience something that hits close to home for you. Maybe you were in foster care and didn’t have what you needed, then sponsor and foster an angel this year. Maybe you or someone you were close to battled with hunger, try volunteering at a food bank. It doesn’t matter what you do, what matters is your passion towards it. Children are pre-dispositioned to be greatly influenced by your emotion, the best way to instill the importance of giving and giving back is to allow your child to understand it not only with you, but through you.
- Have them choose the impact they want to make: This final step ties back to the old adage: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Allowing your child to identify a need and fulfill that need fully immerses them in the emotional aspects of giving. Since the true spirit of the holiday season is unconditional giving, assisting your child in blazing their own path not only satisfies the innate human desire to “do good”, it empowers them with the knowledge of exactly how to make “good” happen.
By creating an individual plan for year-round character, giving together, and empowering children to do good things themselves, you have laid the foundation for overall good character, the key to keeping the “holiday spirit” alive indefinitely.
Enjoy the journey, the future is in our hands!
Kimberly Wilson is the Director of Innovation at Lutz Learning Center and the author of The Right Preschool, Behind the Scenes from an Industry Insider. Connect with her on Twitter @Tweet_Kimbely or Linked In.