By Isabella York
Teaching children to be charitable is trickier than it sounds.
In a world where the Rolling Stones couldn’t “Get No Satisfaction” and “Gimme More” is more than just a Britney Spears song – it’s a mindset! Teaching your kids the value of giving can be quite the challenge but the good news is that you’re not the only parent struggling with this task. In fact, there are thousands, probably even millions, of moms out there who are also looking for tips on how to get John and Jane to give away some of their old toys and clothes.
As a mom to a six-year-old and a three-year-old, I was recently struck with a realization that my little angels were bordering on spoiled. I knew I was in trouble when my son quickly picked up and strung together words like “No” and “Mine“. But what bothered me even more was that it was nearly impossible to give away any of my kids’ toys, even if they no longer played with them. Every time I tried, it became a tug-of-war that almost always ended in tears on their end, and frustration on mine.
That was when I realized that it was time for my own kids to learn the value of contentment and sharing what they have. The following are some of the best lessons I’ve picked up from other moms over the years in teaching kids about charitable giving:
Lesson 1: Start teaching your kids while they’re young.
Some parents believe that it’s important to wait for their children to grow a bit older (think six or seven) before teaching them these life lessons. In a way, these folks are right. The older the child is, the better his/her comprehension skills. However, according to Carol Weisman, the author of Raising Charitable Children, your kids are
capable of understanding caring and giving at the tender age of three or four. At three, your child is quickly learning to communicate his/her needs. The child is also capable of comforting those around him/her. (Think of the time your own youngster offered you a hug when you were feeling down.) Remember, kids are like sponges.
Will you miss the opportunity to teach them what’s right at this early stage?
Lesson 2: Visit the charities you’re helping.
It’s important for your child to know who he/she is helping. This helps the child understand the impact of his/her charitable deeds. An old stuffed toy, for example, could be a real comfort to another child who’s never owned any toys. Your child will begin to understand that old shoes, faded clothes, and forgotten toys are small treasures to those who need them. By seeing who he/she is helping, your child will know that the smallest gifts will make a difference. Seeing another’s plight can also help your kid appreciate what he/she has. Case in point, a friend of mine takes her seven-year-old son to a charity every year. This always falls on the Saturday before his birthday. He gives away a toy of his choice, knowing and understanding that while his family can afford to buy him a new one, there are other children who don’t get toys on their birthdays.
Lesson 3: Bring pets into the picture.
Most kids love pets. Now, if your kid has a soft spot for cute and cuddly animals, then you can help instill a sense of responsibility and helpfulness in your child by giving pet food donations to the local shelter. According to recent news, the Humane Society is in terrible need of dog food. There are also countless animal shelters across the country who would really appreciate your help. So once a week, once a month, or when you can, pick up some pet food and bring them over to the local pound or shelter.
Lesson 4: Value your children’s opinion.
Never force your child to give away anything that he/she doesn’t want to give – whether it’s toys, food, clothes, money, or even time. Kids, as adorable as they are, can be very stubborn sometimes and forcing them to do things they don’t understand will only breed further misunderstanding, and even resentment. Your goal here is to help your child
become a better person by teaching him/her to become charitable—not to get into shouting fests with your youngster.
Open up the communication lines and hear your child out. If your child doesn’t want to give away clothes, money or toys, offer other alternatives like baking treats and taking them to homeless feeding stations, or donating used clothes to Goodwill Industries. When choosing a charitable foundation, you can also ask your child for his/her opinions. By
including your kid in this process, you’re teaching your child to be more responsible.
Lesson 5: Make charitable activities a family affair.
Whether you’re donating clothes to the Salvation Army or making holiday food baskets for homeless charities, involve your kids in the process. Encourage your kids to raid their own closets for clothes and shoes they won’t be using anymore. Ask them to help you pick out the canned goods you’ll be including in your food baskets. The point is getting your children to pitch in while ensuring that they’re enjoying themselves.
Lesson 6: Be the best example.
The best way to teach a child anything is through example. Long before I could convince my six-year-old to give up some of her favorite toys, I was already bringing her along when dropping off old clothes, books, and food to various charities. I’d like to think that our children take cues from us and that they learn the most important values and lessons at home. So start teaching your child to make a difference by making a difference yourself.
Teaching children about charitable giving can be quite challenging. But a little extra effort on our part as parents can go a long way in raising individuals with genuine concern for others.
A busy mother with a son to raise, Isabella York enjoys sharing her experienc with other moms. She helps people celebrate the holidays with Artificial Christmas Trees from Balsam Hill, a provider of fine pre-lit Christmas Trees.