How to Teach My Child Not to Be Selfish

By Karen Hollowell
Praise your child when he shares with others.
Praise your child when he shares with others.

Selfishness is not an attractive trait. Children who grow up thinking that their needs, wishes and opinions should be everyone's primary consideration will probably exhibit the same attributes as adults. Selfish kids are also less satisfied with life and are poorly equipped to deal with adversity. Parents should help their children develop a sense of charitable giving, selfless sacrifice and a sympathetic spirit.

Teach your child to be conscious of what others like or want. When your child plays with friends in your home, suggest to him that he let his friends decide what games they will play. Ask him to let his guests play first. If your child is a teenager, encourage him to let others go ahead of him in the check-out line at the grocery store. Although he may be reluctant in the beginning, deferring to others' needs will help your child become a more compassionate person.

Be a model of selflessness for your child. Verbal encouragement is important, but actions speak as loudly as words. Do you help neighbors or friends? If not, look for opportunities to do so. Your child is watching and will be influenced by what he sees. Your attitude is also important. Tell your child that it is a wonderful feeling to be able to help someone in need. Find a project that you and your child can volunteer for together, like delivering meals to the elderly or participating in a nursing-home visitation program.

Explain how to develop empathy for others. Children need to be aware of the feelings of others and imagine how they would feel in someone else's place. Present scenarios based on situations that commonly occur. For example, say, "I saw that you have a new student in your classroom. I wonder how she feels being in a new place with no friends. Can you do something to help her feel welcome?" Frequently asking your child to think about how he would feel in certain situations will help him be sensitive to the needs and thoughts of others.

Say no sometimes to your child's request for material possessions. Parents indulge their children for a variety of reasons. Maybe they want their children to have things that they couldn't have when they were young, or they are attempting to compensate for not being able to be at home more often. However, giving in to every request from your child will only make him more convinced that he deserves everything he wants and that everyone should always defer to his wishes.

About the Author

Karen Hollowell has been teaching since 1994. She has taught English/literature and social studies in grades 7-12 and taught kindergarten for nine years. She currently teaches fourth grade reading/language and social studies. Hollowell earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Mississippi and her Master of Arts in elementary education from Alcorn State University.