Teaching Kids About Giving
Parents play a crucial role in shaping their children’s worldview, and one of the most important things they can do is help their kids cultivate generous and compassionate hearts. Aside from benefiting others, generosity has proven to develop social skills and raise self-esteem in children.
Here are some simple ways to teach your kids about giving:
Although poverty, social ills, and situations of high need exist in the U.S., it may be rare for most American children to encounter these realities. Therefore, it’s important to be intentional about helping kids realize that not everyone has the luxuries they do; forcing children to be generous without addressing the deeper context of why giving is important won’t change them or their hearts.
Here are some ideas:
- Watch documentaries that focus on global and local issues, such as environmental degradation. Follow up with a family discussion about some of the problems addressed, how it made your children feel, and what they can do to help.
- Read children’s stories from around the world. Learn about another culture and its communities, allowing your kids to identify with other children just like them. Then look up the country online and see what issues they face, such as a lack of primary school education systems or access to clean water.
- Discuss other people’s needs. It is especially important to help younger children see a world outside of themselves. When your child mentions they want or need something, acknowledge their desire and then ask them what their sibling might want. This way you are subtly making them aware of other’s needs.
- Learn about hunger by skipping a meal. As a family, discuss how you feel and how the experience impacts you. Talk about what it would be like to not eat for an entire day. Then brainstorm ways you can help hungry families in your own community and abroad.
- Keep your eyes open for volunteer opportunities, because nothing makes us aware of the world’s need like experiencing it firsthand. (Check out Volunteer Match!)
Your children likely watch your every move, taking cues on what to say and how to act. Your example is powerful and shapes who your children become. Generous hearts are developed through the influence of parents who teach their children that everything they have is a blessing, and therefore they have a responsibility to bless others, because “to whom much is given, much is required”.
2. Demonstrate Generosity
One of the most important ways to lead by example is to demonstrate generosity in front of your kids. If there is a donation box at the check-out counter, point it out to your child and give them some change to contribute while putting some in yourself. If you are enjoying an ice cream cone, ask your child if they want a bite or if they want to share it with you. Invite your children to share in fun activities around the house. Use the word “share” frequently and associate it with positive feelings.
Make it clear that you disapprove of greedy or selfish behavior. When your child refuses to share or is acts out, be firm and consistent in how you respond. Talk with them about why they’re having trouble sharing, while gently reminding them of all that they have and why your family values include sharing and generosity.
3. Pick a Cause
Decide as a family what cause or charity to focus on. You can identify just one, or you can let each child (especially if they are older) pick their own. For example, if your child loves reading, they may want to donate to the public library.
When looking for a charity to support, there are endless options! Do your research (link to: how to get started saving) and find a charity that reflects your values that you feel confident donating to. Picking a local charity is awesome because you can visit and volunteer; picking a global charity is an opportunity for your children to learn about another country and culture.
4. Get them involved
After opening their eyes to different issues and picking a cause, get your kids as involved as possible. We learn best by doing, and there are limitless, creative ways to get children engaged with giving! Here are some ideas:
- Designate a portion of allowance to give
- Set a goal for an amount donated or a number of hours volunteered. Make a huge thermometer, color in your progress, and watch it reach the top. Celebrate when you reach the goal!
- Deposit loose change in a jar and then donate what you’ve collected when it fills up.
- Child sponsorship: Kids can exchange letters with their sponsored child and build a relationship with them.
- Make birthdays charitable. For example, have everyone bring a book to your child’s birthday party that you can donate, or create a fundraising page with an organization.
- Gift catalogs: Let your kids pick out a gift to donate such as a goat, soccer balls, or books. They can choose something specific and it can replace a birthday or Christmas gift for them.
- Volunteer locally. Give time, not just money. Take advantage of service opportunities offered through churches or schools. Visiting the charity your family has donated to will also help your kids better understand the impact of their generosity.
- Ask questions, such as: “How does it feel to give? Would you like to give again? Why or why not?” Spark a discussion about giving, generosity and the issues you’ve encountered.
Teens: As kids grow up, their individual talents and interests become more apparent. The key is to acknowledge what your teen has to offer the world, encourage them in their talents, and then brainstorm with them how to use their gifts and interests to serve others.
5. Emphasize Sharing
Making sharing a part of your family’s culture is a daily way you can encourage generosity in your children. Introduce the concept of sharing when your child is a preschooler. Here are some tips for discussing sharing with your kids:
- When your child is playing with others, explain that sharing is temporary and that they aren’t losing a toy forever, just letting it go for a while.
- When your child shares or demonstrates generosity, praise them and let them know how happy their behavior makes you. Tell them how proud you are of them. This will create an association between sharing and positive feelings, encouraging your child to share more often.
- When your child is having friends over, let them put away a few of their favorite or most special toys. It will make it easier to share the rest of the toys if they know they can set a few aside. However, explain that the toys left out are for all the children to play with and enjoy.
Preschoolers: are at a developmental stage where they think of themselves first and place a great value on their possessions. However, preschoolers can still exhibit generosity and when they do, it is important to encourage this behavior.
How did your parents teach you to give?
Written by Ellie Hutchison
This blog post is from the Author's perspective and doesn't speak for brightpeak financial. Contact brightpeak if you want to know more about brightpeak products, and keep in mind that they are not available in all states and there are some limitations (some exclusions and restrictions may apply).
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