5 fun activities teach kids to think of others

In an old issue of Psychology Today, I ran across an article featuring the words of Dennis Rosen, M.D.

Sometimes children seem so self absorbed and so preoccupied with gadgets and toys, we wonder whether they are aware of, or care about, what goes on around them. We like to tell ourselves, “Something” must be wrong with this generation.

Except there isn’t. The problem lies with us, the adults, who could be challenging them to think about others, and leading them to action.

Prior to going to Haiti to volunteer at a hospital, Dr. Rosen spoke to his daughter’s second grade class about the conditions there, showing them pictures of what life is like for children just like them. Following his visit, the class collected over 7,000 vitamins for him to give out.

“The empathy and genuine interest of these seven year olds was so impressive, and yet, upon reflection, not really that surprising. To help others in need is a very basic human instinct (though one that is not always acted upon).”

5 fun activities teach kids to think of others.

Author Cat Skorupski’s ideas I’m going to use with the kids in my life this summer:

  • Surprise parents by making a favorite food for each of them and present it at the next meal.
  • Do a chore without being asked. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s one that will resonate big-time with parents. The more annoying the chore, the better.  Make a movie of each child doing it and show their parents.
  • Raise money for a cause dear to someone’s heart. Showing that you care about something he or she cares about—enough to invest your time and energy—is a huge compliment.
  • Take a song you already know and write new words to it, making it about someone special to you! It doesn’t have to be complicated—heck, it doesn’t even have to be on-key. It’s the thought that counts! Then record it onto a phone or computer and send it to them.
  • Create a scavenger hunt. Hide affirmation notes around the house for a sibling or other relative to find. The notes could be hidden in sequence with clues that lead the hunter to the next treasure or they could just be hidden randomly.

Tweetable: Show kids how you care about others, then guide them do this directly on their own with 5 new ideas. Click to Tweet

Teaching children to face down their flaws

I watch my grandchildren regularly while their parents are working. One day I drove them and their friends on a day trip to a nearby town. It was supposed to be a fun trip, but the car was full and noisy.

car driverOne of my grandchildren in particular was acting up and arguing about some small point. After several back-and-forth exchanges, I lost my temper and yelled at the child. Suddenly, the whole car was silent.

Sound familiar? This grandfather realized he messed up. It is an almost universal aspiration for children and adults–even grandfathers–to recognize that we have certain weaknesses, flaws or character defects we want to change.

And what did this grandfather do?

I pulled over to the side of the road and turned around to apologize. I explained how sometimes I lose my temper and shouldn’t have responded like that. I talked about a few ways I’m trying to work on changing this.

Later I heard that this incident made a big impression on one of the grandchild’s friends. He’d never heard an adult apologize to a child before, especially without blaming the child for the anger.


1.  Admit my weaknesses.

I am able to admit my mistakes and weaknesses in the child’s presence. I speak of my willing attitude to open myself up to God for help in overcoming.

2.  Put my strengths to work.

Since I know my own talents, strengths and skills, I am able to speak freely to the child about using my strengths, together with God’s, to accomplish much.

3. Think, reflect, analyze.

I encourage time for my own reflection on great teachings and spiritual experiences, and I talk to the child about the degree to which I’ve allowed them to transform my inner life.

4.  Illustrate life lessons through storytelling.

I use my memories and stories to explain life lessons to the child, yet recognizing that their experiences will be different.

5.  Evaluate and change my flaws.

I set aside regular times of reflection upon my activities and use of my personal assets (money, time, energy), considering their effectiveness. I speak to the child about what I need to change and how I plan to go about it.

6.  Notice positive changes and say so.

I comment on positive changes I notice in the child by describing, not judging, his or her journey of growth.

The ideas above are built on the foundational assumption that you yourself are also engaged in a journey of personal transformation.  

In which of the points above do you engage regularly?  Which do you need to be more intentional about? What responses have you seen in children when you practiced these behaviors?

TWEETABLE:  As children develop a conscience; many want the help offered here to change bad behavior. Click to Tweet







Why my grandmother is my hero

915223_19326781 older boy swingsThe English class assignment was to write a five-paragraph essay about a personal hero. Adrian’s* hero is his grandmother–a friend of mine–who shared the essay. Notice how Adrian’s every point flows from his grandmother’s human spirit… and not a single point flows from material possessions.

My grandmother will always be my personal hero and she has a lot more super powers than you could imagine.”

Superpower #1    Acts of courage

A hero is not just somebody who saves lives or flies. It is someone who makes a difference with acts of courage, love and positive influence. My grandmother will always be my personal hero because she never gives up on me and always tries to be a positive role model.

Superpower #2    Directs me towards a great future

Last week she told me “what you do today will decide what you do tomorrow.” At first I did not understand what she meant, but she explained it to me in a way I could understand it better. She said if I don’t study this week I will not be ready for the test at the end of the week. That made a lot more sense and I told her I hadn’t thought about that before. She just smiled and I know she only wants me to give thought and peace of mind to everything in my life.

Superpower #3    Never gives up on me

For example, over the past few years I have probably said or done something hurtful to my grandmother that I didn’t mean, but she never quit on me. She only encouraged me to make better decisions.

Sometimes I wanted her to quit on me because I quit on myself and she never did. I can honestly say that without my grandmother I would not be where I am today. She has pushed me in many ways to become a more responsible and respectful person and I am lucky to have her in my life.

Superpower #4    Works on her flaws

When I told her I was going to write an essay about her she blushed and said, “I don’t think of myself as a hero.” This statement only made me want to write the essay more because a hero is humble.

However my Grandma is human and has flaws, but in those flaws is her personality and like a hero she works on those flaws to become stronger and wiser.

*not his real name

Tweetable: No mention of possessions, fame or fortune in this boy’s essay about his personal hero–his grandmother.  Click to tweet