EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 24, 2013

Children must be taught to be altruistic

Family Matters
Dr. Larry Larsen

---- — Dear Doctor,

This is probably something you don’t hear very often, but what do you do about a self-centered, selfish child? She is only 10, but it does not seem to us, her parents, that she ever thinks about anyone else or their needs.


Dear Mom/Dad,

I have news for you. We are all born with instincts just like those governing your daughter’s behavior and personality.

Think about a little baby. They are demanding, needy, helpless, and primarily concerned with their own needs above all else. I know of no evidence for something we might call the “charity gene.”

This means you are left with the responsibility to do the teaching. How does one go about helping a youngster recognize and address the needs of others? Try these suggestions. Then, try again. The teaching process for altruism and caring takes years.

Stress gratitude:@text1_Bullet: Take time to note what we enjoy and being grateful for it. “Just think. Mrs. Jones didn’t have to do that. She went out of her way. We are grateful.”

Teach caring as an obligation:@text1_Bullet: “We are all on this earth together. We have to be of help, don’t we.”

Show and provide direct experiences of giving:@text1_Bullet: “Let’s go shopping for Thanksgiving groceries to take to the pantry.” “These people have a problem. Let’s get some money and contributions to help them.”

Watch your words and assumptions: @text1_Bullet:Your description of a “self-centered, selfish child” left me cold. I can just imagine what it does to her. Train yourself for positive assumptions. “I know you can be so unselfish” etc.

Be positive and unselfish yourself!