In this article, our founder and CEO Sylvia Kalungi discusses how we can raise the next generation to be generous, kind, and motivated to enact change in our society.
It’s back-to-school week and we at WODIN feel for the little ones. It’s been a hit-and-miss summer — although we did have a hot May and early June so we can’t complain!
Still, July was a washout in the UK while Europe seemed to be on fire! A huge pity really all round. All these events beg the question, how can humanity keep up with all the challenges nature and life keep presenting? And are they really nature’s response or are they man-made? (A conversation for another day am sure.)
But, how do parents teach their children to stay positive, generous, empathetic, and kind to others who may be going through a tough time?
This question was also something a mother asked me after I jokingly told her to donate something towards our cause, as she had just testified to a wonderful abundance that had come her way.
She got pretty serious and asked how she could teach her children these valuable lessons? Especially as they head back to school where other children from multiple backgrounds, home cultures, and mannerisms also attend!
She felt that, since WODIN is in the charitable sector, maybe I knew the answer to her question…and to be honest after a bit of thinking about it, I realised I just might!
I reminded her of a well-known saying:
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
To me, this means that in addition to other values, children need to learn how to become sensitive to other people’s feelings at an early age, preferably from their family! Afterall charity begins at home, right?
As parents, it is our task to teach our children how to respond to stimuli and regulate their emotions. This can mostly be via our own actions and responses to events and our environment. Our actions speak louder than any words can to children. because children “mimic or ape their adults and peers”.
For instance, if we speak ill of our neighbours, our children will reflect that energy right to the neighbours and their children too.
Here’s an example from my own life: when our neighbours had just moved into their house some 18 years ago, they kind of used to ignore us like we did not exist, despite our giving them a welcome card and flowers. On the other hand, their children, who were about the same age as ours, did the opposite. They would knock on our door and ask our children to go out and play. For about 18 months, this went on. Then one day they just stopped. When our daughter asked one of the girls why, she was told:
“My mommy said we shouldn’t play with the likes of you again!!!”
My daughter was literally gobsmacked and so were we! She was so upset that she cried for hours. We consoled her and reminded her of all the friends she has at school, at church, and in our Ugandan community in Liverpool.
That’s when I also told her that she must understand that it wasn’t the other child’s fault, it was “her parents.”
From then on, my husband and I also taught her and her sibling that going forward,
They should go where they are celebrated, not tolerated.
The idea is, that children must be taught to recognize the impact their words and actions have on others. This will help them to build stronger relationships throughout their childhood and to have confidence in who they are as they become empathetic, accommodating, and kind adults.
So, how do we do this?
First of all, charity begins at home. Children learn by mimicking; they copy or “ape” what their parents, siblings, and peers do. NOT what they are TOLD to do! That’s why you can tell a child to stop doing xyz and they carry on regardless.
Yet you notice them put on your makeup and mince around the living room like “Mommy does.”
This applies to a lot of your behaviour and interaction with your child, even the media you consume together. A 2017 study noted that reading picture books to young children that tell uplifting stories about other humans increased their generosity to other children.
As a parent, I would strongly suggest that we do and behave as we hope our children will. We are raising other people’s partners, workmates, friends, neighbors, etc.
Children are always watching, observing, and copying. This means being cautious about how we speak in front of our children. Try your best to be understanding and generous in your words and actions. Be generous to those in need. Give back to causes close to you and take your children along to witness such acts.
Here is an example: When my son was little, every Easter Holiday I would take him to drop off a box of toys and goodies to Zoe’s Place, a local charity that supports children with learning difficulties in West Derby. He also started taking some of the contents of his piggy bank as part of his donation!
While the toys started as something I would encourage and sometimes cajole him to donate, he started the piggy bank giving himself. So much so that Zoe’s Place sent him a special letter of thanks five years in a row.
Today, my son is 20 and he does the donating all by himself! I don’t have to remind or ask him to do it. WHY?
- Because we supported him in building a habit while he was young. We did it by DOING the same. We collected stuff we did not need including brand new stuff we bought and others we never used or received as unused gifts.
- We made it fun to collect the toys, going to local shops, and buying little toys with him. We would let him choose the toy and encourage him by “giving names” to potential recipients even if we didn’t know them.
- We encouraged questions. For instance, he used to ask – Why do I have to give my toys away when I like them myself? Our answer as parents was always based around joy: “Imagine the Joy on Jane’s face when she receives this teddy bear that you haven’t touched in months?” She has no mom and has difficulty walking. She is a special child and you will have just made her Christmas special, too.” (By the way, he believed these names were real even though we never let on that we didn’t know the names of the recipients!)
We as parents must talk about what’s right or wrong and speak up against injustice, inequalities, and inequities. Not as a criticism, but rather as a knowledge sharing. The energy we put out is what comes back to us, so kindness is key. So, our ACTIONS must reflect our words.
This isn’t just anecdotal, it’s founded in research, such as this 2014 study which concluded that children are more likely to volunteer for charitable organisations if their parents model such behaviour.
Yes, school has a lot to do with the conditioning and educating of our children, but we parents have the biggest opportunity to teach our children emotional intelligence as early as possible in life. Before they are fully settled into mainstream education.
According to psychology, a child’s character is formed by age six. And usually, most of that time is spent in the hands of parents and family, so we have no excuses.
Where I grew up in Uganda, the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” was common. I couldn’t agree more! I could go as far as saying it also takes an unconcerned village to wreck a child — a story for another day!
We at WODIN believe that kind, generous children, who feel those in need, grow up in families and communities where giving and kindness are emphasised. Or they grow up in such need, and turn into adults who want to change the world that they grew up in.
Generous children may grow up into kind, generous adults, don’t you think? Show me a charitable foundation or organisation founder, and in most cases, you will find that they were a kind, giving, and very empathetic child. I am sure you have more ideas on how we can help our children to be kinder and more generous. So why don’t you share them below?
Julie Sylvia Kalungi
Lets Connect: f.b.me/WodinLiverpool/
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