Monday, July 16, 2012

Baby Experiment! Toddlers Love to Give. Really.

I recently read this fascinating study that suggests that even egotistical little toddlers love to give.  No way, you may think, my toddler is a selfish little Napolean, throwing fits when she can't have her way and losing her mind when I take away something she wants.  Well, maybe this study might change your mind.

Psychologists at the University of British Columbia created an experiment to test the notion that giving is better than receiving, even in toddlers.  They found that toddlers were happier when giving away one of their own treats then when giving away another person's treat, or even when recieving a treat.  The satisfaction one receives by giving, the researchers suggest, explains why people engage in prosocial behaviors. And, this can begin as early as toddlerhood.

Maybe you've seen this in your child.  The great big smiles and joy when they hand you over a soggy goldfish cracker that's been in their mouth, for example.  But, maybe you've also seen stubborn refusal when asked to share.  I think this is because we have to overcome our selfish nature when we give.  Although our first impulse as humans is to think of one's self first, we can override that impulse and learn the joys of giving. 

I tried a watered-down version of this experiment with Jr.   First, I shared a delicious cookie with him. He looks pretty darn happy.

Then, I asked him to share his yummy grapes. Does he look any more happy? Not really sure that the results are conculsive here :)

I think most people would like to see their children grow up to be unselfish, giving, and humble.  A Barna study showed that people who have parents that give to charity are the most likely to be giving themselves.  Yet another example of how important it is for us as parents to model the behaviors we want to see in our children.  And, not only should we model giving, but we should model giving cheerfully.  We can do this when we give gifts to others at special occasions, when we give some of our old belongings to charity, when we help a family in need, when we help strangers we cross paths with, and when we give our tithe.  Look for opportunities to model cheerful giving, and you will find them!

Again, it may be said best in the Bible -"Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to." (Deuteronomy 15:10).  There sure is a lot of wisdom in that book!

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