Parents from virtually all backgrounds place high importance on raising caring children. So what kind of messaging is most effective when it comes to influencing our children to be generous and kind? Role modeling!
In a classic experiment, psychologist J. Philippe Rushton gave 140 elementary and middle school children tokens for winning a game, which they could keep or donate to an impoverished child. They first watched a teacher play—and regardless of what the teacher said, or did not say, about the virtues of generosity, children donated significantly more than the norm when they saw the teacher behaving unselfishly.
Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School and author of Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, notes, “If you don’t model generosity, preaching it may not help in the short run, and in the long run, preaching is less effective than giving while saying nothing at all.” In short, when it comes to passing on our values, actions speak louder than words.
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