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Selfish to Selfless

Everyone wants their child to succeed, but that pursuit for success can often lead to kids and youth putting their needs above others. And though we want our kids to be successful, it shouldn’t come at the expense of others and it shouldn’t reinforce a mindset of just thinking about yourself.

These days, selfishness seems more common than selflessness. We are hyper-competitive and only think of winning, whether in sports, academics or our personal lives. I’ve seen this attitude in the youth that I help, and it’s something that I have open conversations with them about.

If a kid only cares about their own success, it will lead to conflicts later in their lives. It could end up with them losing a job or ruining a relationship. So, whenever I notice selfish behaviour in the kids I coach, I always turn that selfishness into selflessness.

If you notice the same behaviour in your kids, here are some ways to turn it around.

It starts with you

Even if they don’t act like it, you are the best role model for your children. They see you more often than most people and they are naturally inclined to follow your behaviour. Be mindful of your own actions and try to model empathy and selflessness in everything you do.

Show them that you should try and find solutions, rather than retreat from sources of stress. If something is bothering them or making them sad, their first reaction shouldn’t be to retreat from the world. If it is, then they will think that others should deal with problems themselves and won’t try to help them.

By encouraging your child to look for help—from you, a teacher, a coach or a friend—they will be more willing to help others when asked.

Help them manage their emotions

Most of the time that a kid acts selfishly, it’s because they can’t properly handle what their feeling. Their ability to empathize with other or extend a helping hand is blocked by their own feelings of anxiousness, fear, shame, etc.

Let them know that you are always there to help them, no matter how they are feeling. Your kids should never feel ashamed of telling you about a test or embarrassed about their team’s performance on the field. They might not be happy about it, and that’s normal, but make sure that negative emotions don’t overwhelm them.

Once they feel more confident in themselves, they are better able and more willing to help others.

Actions have consequences

It’s easy for kids to think more and more selfishly if they think that they can get away with anything. When someone faces no consequences for only acting in their own interests, it’s incredibly difficult for them to care about other people.

When your child acts selfishly, explain to them what their actions have done to other people. If they didn’t pass to their teammate, then the whole team might have missed out on another goal. If they passed the blame to a classmate instead of taking it themselves, then they might have caused that classmate and their parents to get in a fight.

If you can show them the consequences of their actions firsthand, that’s even more effective. The purpose isn’t to scare your children, but to show them how other people are impacted by their choices.


On the other hand, show them the benefits of their selfless actions firsthand, too. Volunteering is a great way to show your child the upside of giving back, and it will make their selflessness that much more real to them.

Volunteering has been shown to have a tremendous impact on mental health and confidence, which also lead to a more empathetic attitude. As an added bonus, you get to spend more time with your child, too, which strengthens your relationship with them.

We all know someone whose selfish attitude seems to be their defining feature. You don’t want to associate with that person. You might dread running into them. You definitely don’t want to be their friend.

Selfishness is a negative personality trait that becomes harder to get rid of the longer it’s allowed to grow. If you notice it in your child, try to show them the benefits of being selfless. It will make them better friends, improve their overall attitude, and lead to more opportunities in the future.

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