Sadly, a 2008 study showed that narcissism is on the rise in college students. Narcissism, according to Merriam-Webster, is caring too much about yourself and not about other people. In today’s self-absorbed world, how can we raise kids who strive to make a difference? How can we teach them to care about others, and instill in them a yearning to improve the world?
Here are some strategies to help your kids be less self-absorbed and enable them to see the world as being bigger than themselves.
Take them traveling.
Spend time together, far away from home. Get out of the daily grind and away from life as you know it. This will enable your kids to realize they’re one tiny part of this giant planet. Exposing them to people from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds will expand their world.
If you don’t have the freedom in your schedule or finances to travel, you can still teach your kids about this huge world. Cook dinners together with foods from other countries, and learn about the people from that region of the world by reading books and looking at pictures together. Teach them that your culture is not better or more important than other cultures.
Still unsure whether or not traveling with your kids is a good idea? Check out this article about the benefits of traveling with your kids.
Fill them with awe.
Paul Piff, an assistant professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine, did an amazing study on awe. He has discovered that feeling awe increases altruism. His research has found that even very brief experiences of awe, such as standing near tall beautiful trees, help people feel less entitled and narcissistic. Feeling awe, he describes, helps people feel more connected to humanity.
Piff describes how society today is awe-deprived, as adults spend more time in the office and commuting and less time truly connecting with others and in the great outdoors. He discusses how the attendance at arts events has dropped and family outings such as camping trips are often neglected. He feels that the awe deprivation is part of the societal shift towards people being more self-focused and less connected to others. To combat this, Piff suggests making a point to experience awe frequently, even in little fleeting moments, such as looking at the night sky.
Give your kids frequent opportunities to feel awe. Take them out in nature. Expose them to the arts. Learn what amazes them and give them opportunities to see it.
Serve the less fortunate.
Practice having giving hearts together, either by volunteering your time or donating to a favorite charity or a family in need. There are unlimited opportunities in the world to serve others. Most likely there are plenty of volunteer opportunities within your own community. Serving others will open your kids’ eyes to the extensive disparities faced by certain groups of people, and will help them learn about the needs within their own community.
Do random acts of kindness.
Random acts of kindness are an awesome way to serve others. By doing random acts of kindness together, your kids will learn how to make people’s day. Your kids will learn about the act of helping others without doing it for praise or recognition.
Ask them how they think others feel.
Point out to them that their behavior affects others. This will help them learn to look beyond themselves and think of others too. Even simple questions such as “How do you think your brother feels when you take his toys?” can help kids learn to place value on other people’s feelings.
Model good listening skills.
Practice being active, engaged listeners in family life. It starts with you modeling excellent listening skills to your partner and kids. Put away your electronic devices and listen closely to your loved ones. Teach your kids that being a good listener helps others feel valued.
Teach them the art of conversation.
Show your kids how to converse with others. Teach them the ability to not respond to others with simply “yes” or “no” answers but to ask questions of others and reciprocate in conversations. Teach them to focus on learning about others, asking people how their day was, and the importance of beong curious about people and the world.
Help them find positive role models.
There are young people who are incredibly inspiring, like Ryan Hreljac, who raises money to build wells. His efforts have enabled over 1 million people in developing countries to have access to clean water. Teach your kids that they can make a big difference in the world. Introduce them to positive, service-driven role models.
Do you have other suggestions of how to raise kids who care about others? I’d love to hear them.
Featured photo credit: Hike!/Travis Swan via flickr.com