Just as there is a great variety in adults, there are many different kinds of children. There seems to be a marked difference between some children in how they think, act, and react. It is obvious in some that they do things from their heart. This is the little boy who will see another child crying, and offer the child his favorite toy to make him smile, not realizing until later that he no longer has the toy. This kind of child is fully consumed at the moment with the other person, and the fact that they wanted to make that person happy.
Other children are more “mind” oriented—calculating the pros and cons of their actions or requests that they are given. These ones are more often than not, a bit more self centered—not completely selfish, but they do think something through in relation to how it will affect them and their surroundings and even belongings. This is the one who will see another child crying and look around for something else to give, or run to his parent/caretaker to mention the problem.
Some children, though, are very self-focused, to the point that their needs and desires are all they see and consider when making a request or when thinking about their options. They see how something will affect themselves, and only themselves—not anyone else who might also be affected by the action. This is the child who will grab that last piece of pie, although it is his second and he knows that little sister hasn’t had her first yet. This is also the child who, if this tendency is not guided and reshaped, will grow into the adult who will stop at nothing to get their own way and climb to the top, even to the hurt of others. “Me first” is a natural human tendency, yet some seem to have it much stronger than others, even as a child.
Every child needs to feel loved and understood; every child wants that assurance that someone is there completely for him/her and will not neglect them and their needs. How do you help those children who seem to have more of an analytical nature to do things more from the heart? It is great that a child can think something through before acting, but it can become a hindrance if after thinking it through, they back out of something they can or should do because they deem it “not worth it”.
It is vitally important to help a child to see how their decisions and actions affect others. This can be accomplished with a question like, “Honey, did you notice that there was only one piece of pie for each person? You have already had a piece, and little Jenny hasn’t had hers yet.”
Usually a child will understand that, because pretty much every child has an inborn sense of fairness. If they are a stronger character though, they might just say, “I want it anyway.” How do you encourage a child to think more about others than oneself?
I think we have all heard the Golden Rule: treat others the way we would want to be treated. This is an easy concept for even a young child to understand. Bring up the “how would you feel” aspect of it. We can ask, “How would you feel if you came to get your pie and Jenny had already eaten it?”
A question such as this one will appeal to their inborn sense of fairness, and eventually it can grow to become a thing of the heart, where a child automatically puts himself in the other’s shoes before acting or reacting.
I think this is the hope that all parents share: to raise our children to both think and feel—to be solution oriented and yet empathic, to think “outside the box” and yet still be aware of the effects their actions have on others—and to choose to always treat others the way they want to be treated.