Compassionate parenting is likely to lead to more generous kids

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Researchers say the positive effects are apparent from an early age

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of California at Davis has explored what effect certain parenting styles can have on kids’ generosity. 

According to their findings, four- and six-year-olds were more likely to be more generous than their peers when their mothers were more compassionate and empathetic. 

Adopting a giving attitude

The researchers had 74 four-year-olds and their mothers involved in the study to determine how parental dynamics can affect kids’ generosity. 

While the mothers completed surveys that assessed how they display compassion to their kids, the children completed various activities and received tokens at the end of each one. When the activities were over, the kids were told that they could either trade their tokens in for a prize or donate their tokens to other kids going through difficult experiences. 

This experiment was repeated again two years later, and in both instances, the kids wore heart rate monitors so the researchers could gauge their biological responses. In both trials, the researchers noted very similar results: kids were more likely to be generous when their mothers were more compassionate. 

“At both ages, children with better physiological regulation and with mothers who expressed stronger compassionate love were likely to donate more of their earnings,” said researcher Paul Hastings. “Compassionate mothers likely develop emotionally close relationships with their children while also providing an early example of prosocial orientation towards the needs of others.” 

Feeling better after giving

The study also found that being more generous had significant biological benefits for the kids. Based on their heart monitor readings, the researchers learned that the more tokens the children donated after the activities, the less anxious and stressed they were at the end of the experiment. 

Moving forward, the researchers hope that these findings highlight the benefits associated with both generosity and compassionate parenting. 

“Being in a calmer state after sharing could reinforce the generous behavior that produced that good feeling,” Hastings said.  

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