Parents have a tough job. They have to provide physically and emotionally for the child, teach them right from wrong, and train them to be productive citizens. Since selfishness isn’t a character trait most people approve of, you may be looking for ways of teaching kids not to be selfish.

The best way to avoid having selfish children is to model selflessness. Be willing to serve others and do so both when and where your children will see you. Shovel snow for an elderly neighbor, serve meals at a homeless shelter, or deliver meals to the elderly or housebound. Encourage your children to join you as you reach out to others.

Encourage your little ones to take turns by giving them something. When they give it back to you, praise them or clap your hands to display your approval. This will reinforce their desire to please you and will prepare them to learn to share.

When a baby or toddler takes a toy from another child, your first inclination may be to take the toy away and give it back to the other child. Your reaction is correct – your child should not take things from others – but if you take the toy you’re doing the same thing. It may confuse your child even at an early age.

Allow your child to have several toys that are off limits to others. It’s important for your child to understand ownership and have some things that are ‘mine,’ but you also want them to learn to let others play with some of their other toys. Having some items which your child knows they won’t have to share may make it easier to let someone play with those toys which are to be shared.

Besides teaching your child to share, you also want them to learn to understand another’s feelings. You want your children to pay attention to others when they’re being spoken to, so your best choice is to stop what you’re doing and pay attention to them. Since children are little copycats, they’re likely to duplicate what they’re shown. Remember the poem “Children Learn What They Live;” modeling how you want your child to act is the best way to teach them empathy.

Do you want your child to be generous? Again, let your children see your generosity. Let them see you write out a check to a local charity. Encourage them to let go of some toys they no longer play with or clothing they no longer wear. This will be easier for them when they get new things. Allow them to take the items they’re giving away to a local women’s shelter or children’s charity.

Teach your child to acknowledge gifts they receive. Rather than simply telling someone thank you, help them write thank you notes for each gift. This may be difficult for very small children, but it should be easy for older children who can write. Not only will this activity teach your children to be considerate – it can also help their handwriting skills.

Thinking of ways of teaching kids how not to be selfish can be frustrating, but you know it’s the right thing to do. It’s not an easy job to be a parent but it can be a rewarding, particularly when your child shows selflessness rather than being selfish.