Building Teen Character: Volunteering for Community Service
- By Rachel Paxton
Volunteering in the community is a great way to serve
the people in the area where you live. Many non-profit organizations are run by people who give a lot of their own time and
money to make your community a better place, and volunteers help these services to continue.
In addition, community
service is a great way for teenagers to become aware of needs outside themselves. Don't wait until your teenagers are required
to perform mandatory community service to help them get more involved in your community.
Our first experience with
volunteer work came about when our daughter was about 12. I was working full time, and we were looking for something for her
to occupy her time during the summer. We contacted our local "volunteer center" to find out about available volunteer opportunities
in our community. Through that center we found out about a local day camp for disabled children. It is administered by adults
but almost completely run by teenagers. The older kids (ages 16-21) are employed by the organization as camp counselors, and
the younger teens (ages 12-16) are volunteers. Each disabled child has a teen "pal" for all activities. They go to the park,
go swimming, and a variety of other activities for about 4 hours a day. Volunteers sign up for 1 week at a time, and can volunteer
all summer if they want.
This kind of volunteer work isn't for everyone, of course, but our daughter had a great time
volunteering for this organization and worked there every summer for four years. A lot of the volunteers come back as paid
counselors when they turn 16. The younger teens also love hanging out with the older teens, and the disabled kids love all
the attention. This service gives the parents of these kids very needed time off and is a wonderful resource in our community,
while also offering a unique experience for the volunteers.
There are many other types of volunteer work. Other types
of services our daughter has been involved with:
* Your local humane society is a great place to volunteer as a family.
My daughter and I used to go to our humane society and play with the cats and take dogs for walks. They called this "pet socialization",
so that the animals would have an easier transition into new homes. We had a great time doing this together. Our daughter
also organized her own yard sale and published a newsletter for kids to raise money for the humane society.
our daughter was 16, she became involved in a teen "suicide hotline" program sponsored by our community. She went through
an intensive training program to teach her how to talk to teens who are considering suicide. Teens volunteer to man a phone
line in 4-hour shifts.
* Local churches are great resources for volunteer opportunities. For several years I was a
youth group leader in our daughter's high school youth group. One year we spent a week in Billings, Montana, working in their
homeless shelter and food bank. To me this was quite an eye-opening experience, especially talking to and sharing experiences
with the people who work at these places every day. Last year our daughter spent a week in Idaho fixing up and updating several
schools, and this year she is travelling to Honduras for two weeks.
The services performed through volunteer work
are only a portion of the benefits of volunteering time in the community. Teenagers by nature are very often self-focused
and need to be offered opportunities to reach out of themselves and help others. The earlier they learn to do these things
the more natural it will become for them later in life. Other benefits of volunteer work are valuable experience for applying
for jobs and college scholarships.
Kids want your praise - but they also want to know it’s
sincere. Here’s how to walk that fine line.
Ages: Adults and kids 3 and
"I’m the big brother now!"
Jamie was very excited:
He had a new baby sister! Everything she did seemed amazing to him. He liked hugging her, tickling her and tugging on her
little hands. Though his parents were thrilled that he was expressive in his affection for his sister, they worried that he
was overwhelming her by playing too rough. One afternoon, they sat with Jamie and
explained how small and delicate a baby is, then showed him how to play safely with his new sister. They ended their talk
with a hug, and his parents thanked him for being such a lovable big brother.
"Am I dumb?"
Every night, 8-year-old Harry worked hard at his homework, but he still
was not as good at math as his older sister, Leslie. He often had to ask for help.
On a particularly bad day, Harry sighed, “I’m so dumb!” His father
could see how discouraged Harry had become, and told him that everyone uses a different
amount of effort for different tasks. He reminded Harry that playing the piano came
quite easily to him, whereas most children had to work hard at it. Harry perked up,
and with his dad’s support, began to see that his commitment to doing his personal best in math was an outstanding achievement
“I kept at it!”
Even though 12-year-old Hillary
didn’t think she was good at languages, she wanted to earn an “A” in Spanish. She worked hard at her assignments
and regularly stayed after class to get extra help from her teacher. Her teacher encouraged her to keep at it and praised
her for working toward her goal. As Hillary’s confidence grew, her teacher
gave her the opportunity to make a special presentation to her class. When Hillary
opened her report card and saw that she received an “A” in Spanish, she was proud of the grade and grateful that
her teacher had believed in her.
The Right Words
For best results, make your compliments meaningful.
a large degree, kids define themselves based on the feedback they receive from Mom and Dad. Encouragement and praise help
kids meet their daily developmental challenges and fulfill their powerful need to please us. According to current guidelines
for positive parenting, it takes six or seven compliments to a child to counteract the negative impacts of one criticism.
Nonetheless, quality is better than quantity. Here are some ways to offer praise that matters:
1. Create a clear distinction
between your child - whom you love unconditionally - & your child’s behavior, which may not always be praiseworthy.
specific about why you admire a particular behavior, skill or choice. Avoid broad characterizations, especially negative ones & comparisons to siblings.
effort rather than outcome. Avoid qualifiers such as, "That was great,
but next time…”
4. Build empowerment
by encouraging your child to express his own pride appropriately & become aware of why he was effective in his accomplishments.
All activities should be parent supervised. Parents, please make sure that the tools and items needed for a
project are appropriate for your child.
3 Parenting Tips – Helping Your Child Build Character and Overcome Pouting
by Jean Tracy, MSS
Would you like some parenting tips when your child pouts with
lips turned down and drooping eyes? Do you feel stressed, nervous, or angry with the pouting? Look inside for 3 ways to understand,
help, and build character in your pouting child.
I know how difficult it can be when your child pouts. Pouting affects
your feelings and stresses you on the inside. ‘Oh, no,’ you think. ‘I must make Joey happy.’ If the
pouting continues, your mind, like a rubber band, can snap with anger. ‘He shouldn’t pout. He has no reason.’
You yell, “Joey, wipe that look off your face right now! I’m sick and tired of your pouting.”
Who Pout - What You Need to Know:
When kids pout, they’re drowning in a sea of negative thoughts. They
need your parenting guidance because they don’t know how to pull out of it. If you yell, they sink further. How can
you save them from developing a habit of thinking dark thoughts?
3 Parenting Tips for Building Character and
Stopping the Pouts:
First Parenting Tip – Learn What’s Behind the Pouts -
who pout think negative thoughts like the following:
You love my brother more than me
You give her everything
never do what I want
Nobody likes me
Second Parenting Tip – Ask Questions –
your child off the “pity potty” within his mind. When your child is in a good mood, talk with him. Time alone
like going for a walk or a private dinner can provide the atmosphere you need.
Ask questions like the following:
was your pouting all about?
Tell me about the pouting. What was going on?
When you pout, what kind of thoughts
are you thinking? Would you be more specific?
How do you feel inside when you pout?
Would you like to be happier
and overcome the pouting?
Third Parenting Tip – Listen Carefully, Avoid Criticism, and Then Brainstorm
Your child’s answers will give you the information you need. Don’t interrupt to deny his thoughts,
feelings, or tell him why he’s wrong.
You don’t want him to think, “Mom never listens.” Or
“Dad doesn’t understand me.” Ask, “Is there more?” Keep asking this question until your child
is all talked out and has no more to say.
Assure your child of your love. Avoid criticizing with blame, 'you should
have', or guilt. These tactics can shut communication down faster than a slamming door.
Now is the time to suggest, “Let’s
brainstorm how you can help yourself stop the negative thinking and be happier.” Have your child go first. Make sure
all the suggestions are positive.
Conclusion for Saving Your Child, Building Character, and Stopping the Pouts:
which negative thoughts flood your child's mind. Pull those thoughts out by asking questions. Listen well and get him to trust
that you really care. Brainstorm solutions together.
Follow these steps. Save him from a ‘pity potty' life. Teach
him how to stop drowning in negative thoughts. Give him a better future by taking the time to ask, listen, learn, and brainstorm.
He’ll build a better character for solving problems too.
20 Ways to Foster Values in Children
- by Leah Davies, M.Ed.
"There are little eyes upon
you and they're watching night and day. There are little ears that quickly take in every word you say. There are little hands
all eager to do everything you do. And a little child who's dreaming of the day he'll be like you."
What are values & why do we need them?
They're cherished beliefs & standards for right & wrong. They provide direction & meaning to life. Values inspire constructive behavior.
What values do you consider most important?
The following is a starting place for creating your own list of values:
can you instill values in your child?
1. Read & discuss stories
that support your beliefs.
2. Monitor your
child's media exposure that can undermine parental influence & the development of moral standards for behavior.
3. Share your approval
when praiseworthy behavior is portrayed in the media &/or in real life & discuss your displeasure when corrupt behavior
4. Comment on your
child's admirable conduct. For example, "Johnny, you were being dependable when you fed the dog without being reminded." "When
you helped Mrs. Jones pick up sticks in her yard, you were doing a good deed & showing her you cared."
5. Name your own
commendable actions. For example, "I was honest when I told the clerk she had given me too much change." "I recycle items because we need to do our part to protect the environment."
6. Be polite &
considerate toward others.
7. Do what you
say you'll do.
8. Share your time,
talents & possessions.
9. Set goals & complete difficult tasks.
10. Display warmth,
support, encouragement & consistency toward your child.
11. Set high but
reasonable standards for your child's behavior.
12. Listen respectfully to your child's ideas & feelings.
13. Answer your
14. Offer your
15. Take time to
have fun with your child. For example, play games, read, pretend, look at family photos, share dreams, attend events, participate
in sports or hobbies, or volunteer for worthy causes.
16. Agree on family rules & live by them. For example, the television is off
during family meals; we're kind to each other; we don't use profanity.
17. Divide chores
& work together on family projects.
in religious activities &/or be faithful to religious or moral beliefs.
19. Consider how
your family spends its time & money by asking yourself, "In my child's eyes, what does my family value most?"
20. Remember that
your child will adopt the values you demonstrate daily.
Used by permission of the author, Leah Davies, and selected
from the Kelly Bear website [www.kellybear.com].
3 Parenting Tips for Building Character in Your Angry Kids
by Jean Tracy, MSS
If 3 character tips could stop your angry child from exploding,
would you use them? If so, look inside for 3 parenting ideas that are sure to help.
Temper can be a volcano blazing
out of control. It blows its top without thinking. It demands what it wants or else. There’s no room for reason. If
your child’s a volcano, you’ve got work to do.
When your child is calm, take time to discuss anger, its cause,
and its solution.
I know you’re wondering how. Before I tell you, grab a piece of paper and ask your child to
draw a volcano at the top. When your child is in a good mood, discuss, write out, and memorize the 3 truths below. Those truths
are to be posted on your bulletin board, wall, or refrigerator. They’ll remind your child to think without exploding.
Tips – 3 Irrational Ideas to Discuss and 3 Truths to Teach:
Consider discussing the following irrational ideas
one at a time. Ask your child to brainstorm more examples. Write out and memorize the truths that follow.
Idea - Things have to go my way. Talk about the weather. Remember a time when your daughter wanted sunshine but it rained.
Perhaps it rained during her soccer game. No matter how hard she wanted sunshine the weather didn’t go away.
her, “Lots of things don’t go our way. When you and I get angry, we’re demanding that things we can’t
control go our way. But we’re not the King of the Universe. We don’t have the power.”
other situations that prove we’re not the King of the Universe. Discuss why exploding won’t help but using our
gift of reason will.
Action Step – Write the truth, “Things don’t have to go my way” under
your child’s picture of the volcano. Tell her to memorize this truth and say it often when she feels angry.
Irrational Idea - People have to behave the way I want them to. Discuss times when people didn’t act the way your son
wanted. Perhaps his teacher disciplined him when he wasn’t the one who bullied the little girl on the playground. Tell
him, “People don’t act the way you want because they act the way they want.”
Brainstorm and discuss
other situations when people didn’t do what he wanted, like when his sister wouldn’t loan him some money.
Step – Write the truth, People don’t have to act the way I want, on the volcano paper. Tell him to memorize this
truth and say it often when he’s tempted to blow his top.
Third Irrational Idea - I have to get the things I
want. Discuss a time when your daughter didn’t receive the birthday gift she wanted. Perhaps it was a child’s
guitar. Yet she survived the disappointment. Tell her, “There will be lots of times you won’t get what you want.
Bursting your top won’t get you what you want. But it might get you in trouble.”
Brainstorm and discuss
other situations where she didn’t get what she wanted.
Action Step – Write the truth, “I don’t
have to get what I want,” on the piece of paper. Tell her to memorize it and calmly say it when she’s upset.
~ Character Tips that Stop Your Angry Child from Exploding:
Be your child’s model. When things go wrong for you,
calm yourself aloud with one of the above truths. Discuss the 3 parenting tips and their truths whenever good examples arise.
Praise your child when she or he repeats the words. If you do, you’ll be turning an exploding mind into a rational mind.
You’ll be building character too.
Jean Tracy, MSS offers you free access to 80 Fun Activities to Share with
Your Kids when you sign up for her Free Newsletter at http://www.KidsDiscuss.com