Raising a Giving Child
We all want our kids to be the ones that share their toys with other kids and offer to give some of their allowance at church on Sundays. Most importantly we want them to grow up to be adults who care about others and give time and money to helping build their community. The question is, how do we do that?
Altruism isn’t something people are born with. In fact, it’s almost the opposite. The natural instinct of a young child is to hoard their toys, and once they learn about possession, “mine” is one of the oft-repeated words out of their mouths. It’s up to us as parents to help teach them how to share, and it’s from those very simple beginnings that we begin to help our children grow into well-meaning adults.
The good thing that we can help teach our kids to be generous, but it’s not as simple as teaching them their shapes and colors. It takes time, patience, hard work and even some help from their own personality. Here are a few things to keep in mind to help transfer your values to your children.
Kids learn by watching you.
It’s true what they say, actions speak louder than words. You can lecture your kids all you want about how important it is to give back, but unless they see you do it yourself, it won’t make that much difference to them. The good thing is it doesn’t have to be big. If you go to church, make sure they see you contribute to the offering. At Thanksgiving, let them pick out some extra canned goods to donate to the food drives at our grocery stores. For older kids, take them along on a service project, like picking up trash from the side of the road or helping serve in a soup kitchen.
Use current events to make it hit home.
For older kids, things that happen on the news such as the earthquake in Haiti or Hurricane Katrina can make a big impression on them. Show them how they can use that opportunity to help others by donating to the fundraising efforts that are organized around those natural disasters.
Appeal to their interests.
Being community-minded can have many facets. You can help your child find something that helps the community and keeps them interested at the same time, which will encourage them to continue with their projects.
For example, if your child is interested in nature and the outdoors, hook them up with a service project that’s cleaning up city waterways or beautifying parks. If they love to read, you can help them find ways to volunteer at a nursing home reading to people whose eyesight has deteriorated.
Start young, but keep it going.
It’s almost instinctual how we teach kids to care for others when they’re toddlers, helping them learn to share their toys with their friends or go comfort someone who is feeling sad or hurt with a big hug.
Make sure to continue those efforts in age appropriate ways as your kids get older. If someone at school doesn’t have the Sketchers that everyone else is wearing, use that opportunity to talk about how to act toward other people and go through your own child’s closet to see what you can donate to Goodwill. Even as your kids go from elementary to middle and high school, you can stay involved by helping them find volunteer opportunities and even finding some that you can all do together.
There are plenty of opportunities to give back in our own area. Here are a few just as a starting point:
Greensboro Urban Ministry
Second Harvest Foodbank of Northwest North Carolina
Big Sweep, held the first Saturday in October
Fox 8’s Give a Kid a Coat