A Coach Approach to Nurturing Altruism

28 01 2013

From the ancient Egyptians, to Abraham Lincoln, the Dalai Lama, and modern day scholars, the power of altruism and altruistic behaviour for both the beneficiary and benefactor has been professed throughout history.  Even beyond historical wisdom, psychological theory and scientific data we can all relate to the feeling we derive from bringing joy to another. It’s real and its poignant!

So how do we strike the balance between selflessness and selfishness in our children and ourselves? It can be challenging to teach our children about asserting themselves and drawing limits to make decisions that are good for them while nurturing their ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.  The issue is compounded further when we consider how recent generations and we ourselves are so accustomed to instant gratification.  It’s hard to think of anything – object, service or piece of information that we can’t have with Wi-Fi and a few deft finger strokes on a screen or keyboard.

Simpsons’ fans may recall Bart’s sad albeit funny Thanksgiving prayer which sums up this rather dismal ingrate mindset:


Thankfully, there are schools and other collectives promoting values of gratitude and kindness to raise our children’s altruistic awareness.  My children’s school moto is “Soyons Toujours Respectueux!….des autres, de la propriété et de soi!” (Always be respectful…of others, school property and yourself)  in that order and they live this value everyday.   Introducing children to charitable causes and having open dialogues about local and global needs also helps.  Practicing altruism and appreciation in the family community reinforces how children can serve the greater good in their choices by considering impact on family members and themselves.  So although challenging it is possible to raise the level of social consciousness around altruism by simply recognizing examples of random and even not so random acts of kindness.

Want to use a coach approach to nurturing altruism? Ask your children the following questions and listen beyond the words for the answers:

  • How do you feel when you do something for someone?
  • How can you help make a positive difference?
  • How can you make the biggest difference for the most people?
  • What contribution can you make that would make you feel good?
  • What changes when you help others?  How are you different?
  • What can you do today to open your heart to someone in need?

Not everyone was born to be a social activist  – right Bart??  But even the Simpsons writers and producers would probably agree that a little kindness and gratitude can go a long way, and maybe even come full circle!




2 responses

19 02 2013
Parenting And Stuff

Hi there, please see my 2 last posts: I am thinking, would you like to participate in this multi blog? Let me know if so. Thanks!

19 02 2013
Grace Paduano

Hmmmm, I’m intrigued….

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