Thinking About Others – A Family Affair
Disclaimer: “Thinking About Others” is a term used by Michele Garcia Winner. To read more about this term and her awesome social thinking methods, visit her website here.
I am the mother to two gorgeous children. Although they were born in Korea, they are American in every way possible. Unfortunately, this also includes the fact that they often feel entitled. In addition, although they are neurotypical, they have a very difficult time thinking about others in terms of being generous. This became abundantly clear in the last month.
When all of the Christmas festivities were completed (we celebrated 3 times over 2 weeks), I looked back and made a realization. My children had not given a single gift to anyone. No card. No craft. No creation. Nothing. Thinking about others? Not at all. (Side note, my son insists that he has a present for someone but it is in his room and as of the writing of this post he still has not brought it out of his room!)
Another example was that one of my children was being especially rude to his sister and driving me crazy. I told him that he had lost all screen privileges until he did 5 nice things for her and 10 nice things for me. He was completely stumped. He is eleven years old and had no idea how to do something that we would appreciate. He could not think about others.
What to do?
Thinking about others is HARD for many children. It requires reminders and specific teaching. Most of this teaching my be done at home on a regular basis in order to start to sink in to their brains and hopefully hearts.
Here are five ways I am going to practice “thinking about others” with my children:
- We sponsor 2 children in Rwanda. I am going to sit my kids down and have them buy each child a gift with their “give” money.
- Next year, the number of gifts given to the children will be reduced from two to one. And part of that requirement is that they buy or make a gift for someone else in the family. We will do it “Secret Santa” style (although it will not be a secret since there are only 4 of us!).
- I will make “do x number of nice things” for someone else a regular practice. Hopefully, the kids will eventually figure out things that brighten the day of another person (heck, I would do a huge happy dance if they started a load of laundry for me!).
- We will talk about what others like. I am going to make a practice of talking about others (especially extended family). This may only happen when a birthday is coming up or a special occasion, but we need to get the conversation going.
- The kids will now buy or make their own gifts for friends’ birthdays. I will provide them with the money if needed, but I will expect them to do the shopping and choose the gift.
Do you have children that struggle with “thinking about others”? How do you help them?
My grandson surprised us with a valentine and nice letter in the mail. It was a wonderful surprise to receive in our mailbox after a hectic day of moving! That was a very thoughtful 11 year old!
I love your post! I have two boys (both teens now) and I think the best thing we did as a family to encourage thinking about others is getting involved in community service projects. We have worked in soup kitchens, helped with coat drives and volunteered at Lighthouse Retreat to serve families that have kids going through cancer treatment. It’s hard (even for teens) to be self involved when you are loving other people 🙂
Very relevant post–I will be sharing this with parents at my private practice. Wonderful ideas to reinforce social cognition!
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