Giving for the Sake of Giving: Teaching Your Kids the Joy of Helping Others

via Giving for the Sake of Giving: Teaching Your Kids the Joy of Helping Others, Parents & Kids, 2/19/2013.

In January 2010, Charlie Simpson was living his life happily as would any seven-year-old. But when he saw the devastation brought by the Haiti earthquake, Charlie was moved to do something more than just watch. The London youngster posted an appeal on a charity fundraising site, and offers began to pour in to sponsor him as he rode his bike around a London park. His efforts netted nearly $500,000 in donations.

Charlie has a lot of company. While the explosion of worldwide media has highlighted needs around the globe, the Internet has empowered kids to get more involved. So how can you teach your kids to be like Charlie? Well, experts say that while some kids may be more generous than others, most kids learn from what they see their parents do.

There are many possible motivations for giving. Some people are motivated to give for selfish reasons—perhaps to gain prestige or a tax write-off. Others have begun giving because their lives have been positively impacted by a particular cause, or they have been blessed with a lot and they want to give back. Still others give because they were “brought up that way.” Whatever the motivation, giving is something that runs counter to our society’s demand for instant gratification and a “what’s in it for me” mentality.

The opposite of this mentality is altruism, defined as “the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others” (www.dictionary.com). In other words, altruism is the act of giving without regard for the personal benefits you may gain from doing so.

Instilling the value of giving to our kids isn’t easy, because there is a lot of competition for their time and attention. Schoolwork, sports, and other extracurricular activities tend to consume most of our kids’ available time. Also, many organizations find that while there is often plenty of help around the holidays, they face day-to-day challenges for survival in tough economic times.

In times of disaster, the floodgates of generosity usually open wide, even in a tough economy. After Hurricane Katrina, for example, people in the Deep South experienced firsthand the generosity of strangers from around the world. And many kids mobilized to help, sending everything from spare change to bottled water and helping clean up neighborhoods along the Gulf Coast.

“We encourage people to get their families or children involved in giving themselves to the missions experience,” says Tommy Jarrett, care and missions pastor at Broadmoor Baptist Church in Madison. Through its G3 (Grow, Go, Give) campaign started this year, Broadmoor has encouraged its members to get beyond the walls of the church to help in taking care of the community.

Often, he says, families will participate together in various missions activities, helping in places ranging from the metro Jackson area to countries around the world. These include everything from cleaning up local schools and feeding the homeless to setting up backyard Vacation Bible Schools for disadvantaged youth. In his years as a pastor and parent, Jarrett notes that he has witnessed a shift in churches becoming more missions-minded. “That’s what Jesus taught us to do,” he notes.

Jarrett notes that instilling a habit of giving—rather than concentrating on infrequent or one-time acts of service—is what makes the idea of giving “stick” in the minds of kids, as they see their parents emphasize the act of giving.

“I think what you do is get your children involved in practicing it on a regular basis,” he says. “Just once or twice every so often is not going to make it happen. When your family does it on a regular basis, it’s significant.” He points to several families who have adopted local families throughout the year, spending their Christmas money on others, rather than on accumulating gifts for themselves.

“It’s really important to maintain a consistency,” he adds. “In the living of life, you don’t always pay attention to that kind of thing. There is a joy that comes with giving.”

Here are a few points to remember about teaching charity to our kids:

  • Charity doesn’t always mean money. Things like cutting the lawn for an elderly neighbor or volunteering at a local animal shelter can reap big benefits for both the giver and the recipient.
  • Children model what they see at home. If kids see their parents giving, they will want to help, too. Make sure your kids “catch” you in acts of kindness. Every once in a while, pay the tab for the person behind you in the drive-through, or buy a cup of coffee for a homeless person. You don’t have to make a big show of it, but your kids will see and observe.
  • Don’t assume that kids won’t want to help, just because they don’t have taxes to worry about or don’t have vast sums to donate. Many kids are naturally empathetic to others; this quality is worth nurturing.
  • Remind your kids how lucky and blessed they are. If you volunteer in places where people need help or are disadvantaged, take your kids with you. Remind them that they are blessed to be living in a place where things such as clean drinking water and basic sanitation are taken for granted. People in much of the world do not enjoy those things, and we tend to ignore them.
  • Even small things make a big difference. For example, setting up a change jar designated for a local charity will bring a big smile to your kid’s face when he delivers it personally.

Resources:

Network for Good: Kids’ Guide to Giving: http://bit.ly/zsjKr

10 Great Kid Philanthropists: http://bit.ly/gKBqxm

 

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