By Marcia Hall
Most parents desire to raise children who have solid character and compassion. A child will learn these traits from watching those he sees around him and partaking in activities that focus on cultivating these skills when he’s young. To build character in your child, consider doing these three activities with him.
Clean up a neighbor’s yard for free. Raking leaves and mowing lawns can be a fantastic and lucrative job for a pre-teen child, but it can also be a wonderful gift to give someone. Every now and then, go with your child to one of your neighbors’ houses with a rake or shovel. Help that person out with no intentions of making a big deal about it. You can even make it a secret sneak “attack,” which might make it even more fun for your child. The best way to build a generous character is to teach giving without any kind of reward, even the award of recognition.
Visit a retirement home. The elderly tend to crave the attention and presence of children. Very little else brings joy to their life like a visit from a child. Individuals that have lived a full and happy life have a lot to offer to a child. Your child might find it difficult to look past the limitations senior citizens have to see the wealth of knowledge and wisdom they possess. However, a few lighthearted visits to bring treats, sing some songs, or play some games can help open your child’s eyes. This activity is best done with parents or close caregivers because it can be overwhelming for your child at first. There is almost always at least one person that your child will connect with during these visits, and once that connection is made the sharing can begin.
Cook and deliver a meal for friends. Children naturally want to help out when they are young, especially with cooking meals. As they get older, this normal inkling to help make dinner may lessen. But if the meal preparation is done for a reason and has a very specific purpose, the child might be a little more interested. It is important in this activity to allow the child to be involved in the process from the very beginning. Perhaps your child has a friend whose family is welcoming home a new child or having some other challenge in life. This would be a great opportunity to model and teach compassion. Have the child help plan the meal, shop for the supplies, prepare and make the meal, and then deliver it. This too could be done in secret, with no one but you and the child knowing what was done. The sense of satisfaction he will get from knowing that he worked hard to help someone else will be a reward in and of itself.
There are thousands of ways to teach children the character building lessons of compassion, generosity and sacrifice in everyday life; however, they can only be truly learned by the child if he witnesses the adults in his life regularly practicing these things too. The key to each of these activities, as well as thousands of others, is for the child to do them with Mom or Dad. That is the only way the importance of the endeavor will be learned and recreated.