By GreatSchools Staff
Aside from competitive pie baking and the even more competitive pie eating, Thanksgiving is traditionally a time when many Americans practice generosity. Families volunteer at local soup kitchens or invite lonely neighbors to share in their feasts of cranberry sauce, turkey, and mashed potatoes. But if you really want your kids to learn the value of being big-hearted, such gestures shouldn't be limited to the fourth Thursday in November, says child development expert Robyn Silverman.
Silverman, who holds a Ph.D. in child development from Tufts University, developed Powerful Words, a character education curriculum taught in nine countries, which devotes a month to teaching children about generosity. She argues that this trait is teachable to every age as long as parents keep in mind one key point: Generosity is an activity that brings as much pleasure to the giver as to the receiver.
GreatSchools asked Silverman to share her tips for instilling the joys of giving in children year-round.
GreatSchools: How can elementary schoolers learn generosity?
Robyn Silverman: In Powerful Words, I did a generosity project for the kids, and I said: "I want you to hypothetically come up with an activity that would help somebody else." I gave examples, like a charity event, but said they could come up with their own.
Two kids who lived in Dairy, N.H., wrote about doing a project for the Dairy Humane Society. They were eight years old. It was going to be called the Furry Friends Project — they planned it out. Then they went to the teacher and said: "Do you think we can do this?" The teacher went to the principal, they wound up presenting it to the school board, and they actually had a full-town charity event.
GreatSchools: What similar activity could a parent do at home?
Silverman: Get kids thinking about these things. Give them some examples — do some brainstorming with them. Say: "We can do anything. We can help anybody. Children, the elderly, dogs, cats, the rainforest. What would interest you?"
Ask the open-ended questions that gets kids thinking at that age, instead of closed-end questions with "yes" or "no" answers: "What would you like to do? Who can we ask to help?" This is going to help them take ownership. It also gives them the pride that they were really the ones who came up with the idea, even though you may have helped out.
Urge them along and encourage them to take some initiative, instead of you taking the reins. You want your kids to have their own thoughts and their own actions, and see the response that they get when they are generous. That is what is going to solidify their interest in being generous.
Even though generosity is one of those words that seems selfless, it does help children feel better about themselves. It helps with self-esteem. You do get something back. We want those kids to feel that even though it's not materialistic, they are getting feelings of pride that makes them feel really good, and then they'll want to do it more.
GreatSchools: Are there any mistakes parents make at this age that inadvertently teach selfishness?
Silverman: Not giving the child time to do generous acts: "You're so busy — you're doing all these activities." It's great to do activities, but we also want to have time to give back to others.
Sign up for our free newsletter and we'll send you
more just like it every week.
Thank you! You will begin to receive newsletters from us shortly.
Great work! Only one more step. Now we just need you to verify your email address. Please click on the link in the email we just sent you to complete your registration.
Great work! Only one more step. Now we just need you to verify your email address. Please click on the link in the email we just sent you to submit your review.
Please click on the link in the verification email we just sent you to complete your change of email address.
Whoops! It looks like we still need to verify your email. To do so, please click on the link in the email we sent you. Can't find the e-mail? Click the button below and we'll send you a new one.
Thanks for registering. Welcome to GreatSchools, the largest online community committed to improving educational outcomes through parental involvement.
Thanks for verifying your updated email address.
Oops! You haven't verified your email address yet. To do so, please click on the link in the email we sent you. Can't find the email? Click the button below to receive a new one.
Oops! That email verification link has expired. Please click the button below to receive a new one.
Create an account to submit your answers.
Sign in with an existing GreatSchools account or using Facebook:
Your review has been posted to GreatSchools.
Share with friends! Post your opinion of on Facebook.
Welcome to GreatSchools!
For principals and school officials, we offer a special Enhanced School Profile (ESP) which allows you to update and add information about your school, as well as respond to reviews. If you are a school official, click Continue to start.
Please note that it can take up to 48 hours for your comment to be posted to our site. While you're here, we'd like to invite you to fill out a survey on your school's programs, activities, and extracurriculars. It only takes a few minutes and will help parents get a full picture of your school.
Get started now! You have successfully registered and can now start updating your Official School Profile. The information you provide is extremely valuable in helping parents and students learn more about your school, so thanks for taking the time!
Thank you for registering as a school leader. We just need to verify your email address. We've sent you an email - please click on the link in that message to get started editing your school's information!
Thanks! We just sent you an email – please click on the link in the email to post your answers.
Get timely updates for , including performance data and recently posted user reviews.