Great thinkers from Martin Luther King Jr. to the Dalai Lama to my daughter, Addison, all have had something to say about the importance of helping others. The civil-rights leader stated, "Life's most persistent and nagging question is 'What are you doing for others?'" The soft-spoken spiritual leader called doing good deeds "our prime purpose." And my 12-year-old put it this way: "Helping feels good because it's nice for the other person and for you."
Smart words. And as it turns out, kids are actually hardwired to be considerate and kind. "The desire to help is innate," says David Schonfeld, MD, director of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. And their sense of doing good develops as they grow. "At first, children like to help others because it helps them get what they want. Next, they do so because they get praise. Finally, they begin to anticipate the needs of others, and it becomes intrinsically rewarding to do nice things for people in their lives."
Bottom line: Kids want to help. And as parents, it's our job to nurture and guide a child's natural inclination to pitch in so it becomes a lifelong habit. "It's important to be a good role model -- children learn to be helpful from watching you," says Dr. Schonfeld. Try out a few of these simple ways to nudge your kid's helping gene.