As we enter the holiday season, many parents will introduce their children to charity. Some will volunteer at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving, or pick out a gift to donate to their school’s Toys for Tots collection drive. We all want to raise empathetic children who will make their world a better place, but developing a charitable mindset takes a more nuanced approach than just tossing them into these types of situations.
Children can benefit from seeing adult role-models participating in charity, but there is a more effective way to best support children’s natural inclination for kindness. Researchers have found that children whose parents also talk to them about giving are 20% more likely to give to charity than those whose parents do not engage in this type of conversation.
Parents who want to raise more generous children should talk with the child directly about what values are important to them and why giving helps them enact those values. The more that children can appreciate how charitable activities can be meaningful to them and for others, the more likely they are to grow up to be charitable themselves.
Here are some conversation tips for talking with children about charity:
(1) Be specific: Instead of saying that it’s “the right thing to do,” give a detailed explanation like, “Since it doesn’t fit you anymore, it would be kind to donate this winter coat because someone else could use it to stay warm in the winter.” This helps children to understand exactly what the effect of their action is.
(2) Ask their opinion: Before offering your own idea, ask your child to tell you what issues are important to them, and brainstorm opportunities together about what actions they could take to fix them. The giving will be more sincere if it is something the child personally cares about.
(3) Share your story: Talk about a time when someone gave to you and what that meant to you. Then, share a story about a time when you gave to someone else. This shows that we all rely on other people’s kindness at different times in our lives, and the important thing is to return the kindness whenever we can.
(4) Make it achievable: Explain to your child that they cannot fix every problem, but rather, that they can contribute in small ways each day to build a better world. Maybe one day this is sharing a snack with a classmate who forgot their own, and maybe another day it’s volunteering at an animal shelter. As they get older, help them find opportunities to expand their circle of giving.
We hope these tips are helpful, and please leave a comment below if you have any other ideas for how we can raise charitable children!
Noriko Louison, our Content Intern here at Woobo, authored this post. She is helping to stuff Woobo full of games that will make you laugh and inspire your imagination. Noriko is currently a Master’s student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education studying Human Development and Psychology, and plans to pursue a career in the children’s media and technology industry.
Cohen, D. (2016). Giving: The Best Gift of All. Retrieved from http://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/indulgence-values/giving-best-gift/
Holland, K. (2013, October 18). Teaching kids charity? Skip the soup kitchen trip. Retrieved November 14, 2016, from http://www.cnbc.com/2013/10/17/teaching-kids-charity-skip-the-soup-kitchen-trip.html
How parents teach children about charitable giving matters, new study finds. (2013, September 12). Retrieved from http://news.iupui.edu/releases/2013/09/children-charitable-study.shtml
Kanter, B. (2007, November 25). Encouraging Philanthropy at a Young Age: Teaching Your Kids To Give To Causes. Retrieved November 14, 2016, from http://beth.typepad.com/beths_blog/2007/11/encouraging-phi.html