Creative Child

8 Ways to Raise a Socially Conscious Child

by Deborah Song on Oct 24th, 2016

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3. Expose your child to charitable acts.

It’s no secret that kids follow their parents. So volunteering and exposing your child to your own charitable good deeds may be one of the best ways to help your child do the same. When kids watch their parents donate money or provide food for the homeless, that kind of social consciousness becomes embedded in a child’s DNA.

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Find causes that resonate with your child. Help your child find empathetic ways to make a direct contribution. Volunteering helps your child see himself as competent and empowered. The more your child gives, the more he will care. As the saying goes, your heart is where your treasure is.

4. Dole out responsibilities.

It’s important that your child feel appreciated for being part of the family. Belonging is a two-way street, however. It’s not just about taking. In order for your child to feel like she truly belongs, it’s important that your child contribute to the family. So give him some responsibilities. Every child — and person, for that matter — needs to feel needed. Responsibilities solidify a child’s place and identity in the family. Have a family pet? Make it the child's responsibility to see that it gets fed and groomed. If the child is old enough, let him cook dinner once a week. He can even be in charge of shutting off unused lights.

5. Teach her to stand up for just causes.

Show your child how to stand up for her rights and the rights of others. If there is a battle your child can fight for herself, coach her on how to argue respectfully for her rights and those of others so that she’s heard. My youngest daughter has always been poised in the face of contention. Her strength is, well, her strength. Very few things intimidate her. When a classmate of hers was being bullied, I asked my daughter to help protect him. I’m not sure what she said or did on behalf of her friend, but his parents came and thanked me two weeks later.

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Every child has different gifts and they can be tailored to fight for or support social justice, even if that means leveling the playground field and encouraging everyone to take turns on the swings.

6. Don’t over-praise.

It’s great when your son shares his toy with a friend. But lavishing praise often works as a distraction, says Polly Young-Eisendrath, Ph.D., author of “The Self-Esteem Trap.” “When kids expect praise for very small accomplishments, it actually gets in the way of their thinking about other people's needs,” Young-Eisendrath explains. Every child needs and deserves a pat on the back, but in order for altruism to flourish, it needs to not get eclipsed by ego.

Mention praise in appropriate doses and with prudent timing — a few hours or days after the good deed has taken place, for example. Also, think about the kind of praise you’re giving. Saying “good job,” isn’t bad, but consider more meaningful alternatives to “good” job” to express encouragement.

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7. Educate on the go.

When a child asks why someone is in a wheelchair or why their face looks different, don’t be quick to shush them. Take advantage of the opportunity to explain why some people are different, what their challenges may be, how to celebrate those differences and why it’s important to have proper manners, like not pointing fingers at them. The same can be said for when your child hears someone say something insensitive. Children notice everything anyway, so address it. When a stranger, friend or perhaps a family member makes a racist remark, or shames a person for being different, take the opportunity to explain to your child why that’s wrong.

8. Start a gratitude journal.

The beauty of a journal, whether it’s written or drawn in, is that it forces a child to pause. More than saying an ephemeral thank you, a gratitude journal helps etch thankfulness into the minds of its author. Sure, it’s important to sprinkle your language with kind and graceful words, but reflection works to solidify a habit of gratitude.

Deborah Song is a Los Angeles-based writer and the mother of two girls. She received her master’s in journalism from New York University and writes about parenting, business and kid entrepreneurship. You can read more of her work at lemonadepost.com.

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