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Character Tips for Parents ~ How to Turn Selfish Kids into Caring Kids

By Jean Tracy, MSS

Selfishness, like a small mirror, only sees the self. How can you help your child go beyond the mirror and see others?

Parents of kids with great character know how. They ask 2 important questions. The questions boost moral reasoning. Before I tell you what they are, think back to a time when your child was selfish.

Did you tell him why he ate all the candy, took his little brother's toy, or whined when he wasn't first?

  • "You ate the candy because you didn't care about the rest of us."
  • "You took your brother's teddy bear because you wanted him to cry."
  • "You whined to be first because you only think about yourself."

First, let's find out why telling kids what they think doesn't help them see beyond the mirror.

Telling Kids Why They Act Selfishly Increases Their Stubbornness Because:

  • You may be wrong.
  • You are accusing them and they resent it.
  • You are making it harder for them to admit they were selfish.

Research tells parents to appeal to their child's reason. So what can you do?

Ask, don't tell.

Get your child to reflect on his selfish behavior. Use the 2 key questions below and make sure those questions emphasize others' feelings and your child's better behavior.

  1. How do you think the other person felt?
    • How do you think the family felt when you ate all the candy?
    • How did your little brother feel when you took his toy?
    • How did your classmates feel when you whined to be first?

  2. How could you act better?
    • Listen carefully to his answer.
    • Repeat the question until the answer shows awareness of the other person.
    • Encourage him to apologize when appropriate.

The 2 key questions promote responsibility. To answer the questions, your child must reflect on his behavior. He'll go inside his head and realize other kids have feelings too. When he steps into their shoes, he'll feel the pain he has caused them. Then he's in a better position to know how he can act better.

Conclusion for Turning Your Selfish Kids into Caring Kids

Can you see how these questions and this process build character? Yes, your child can feel regret for his selfish actions. That's good. He's becoming a better person. He's turning his selfishness into caring. You helped him put down the selfish mirror . Congratulate yourself! You deserve it.


Pick up Character Building: Problem Stories for Family Discussions 3 great discussion BONUSES are included:

15 car topics for those long vacation drives or short rides to the store
18 ways to spark your family discussions for building character
51 family conversations starters

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