I feel weird writing this post, because I don’t want anyone thinking I’m holding up my kids as a perfect example of giving, selfless children. They’re normal kids — they don’t always share their toys, and they ask for too many treats they don’t need and they waste food when I’m not looking. But I am trying to get them to think of others, and hopefully raise them to give back. After a lot of reading and trying things ourselves, here’s how we’re trying to raise charitable kids.
1.) Use the 80-10-10 rule
Most books that teach kids about money include this rule (and a lot of adult books, too!). It is basically this — when your child earns an allowance, have them donate 10% of their earnings to charity. 10% goes into savings, and the other 80% is available to spend (in accordance with your rules, of course!). You can sit down as a family and decide where to donate — the entire family can give to one charity, or each child can choose one that means something to them.
2.) Do stuff throughout the year
We think a lot about giving and charity near the holidays, but talk to your kids about people’s needs and how you can help throughout the year. Look at traditional charities — collect canned food for your local food bank, or support a child in a struggling country — but also look at how you can help in your neighborhood. Can you and your children make a meal for a new mom? Can they include someone at school who’s being left out? Talk to them about looking beyond the “wow” moments of serving big, and look for the little moments when you can help just one person.
3.) Get them involved on their level
Little children can help pick out toys for a toy drive — be very clear that they’re not choosing this toy for themselves, but for someone who doesn’t have any. My kids each took a shoebox this year to fill with things to send to kids in other countries — and they did a better job picking things for kids their age than I would have! I’m always surprised by kids’ creativity and willingness to help when they’re given the chance. I used to worry that we’d buy these things and everyone would be upset when they realized they didn’t get to keep them…and every time I’ve been amazed by their willingness to give. We don’t give kids enough credit — we think we have to teach them generosity for a long time before it sinks in — and I think they’re ready to help way before most of us let them.
One way to involve kids is by including them in the Western Union Chain of Betters program.
I bet they’d have some awesome ideas on how to use this money around the world. I recently asked my Girl Scout troop for input on a big service project we need to plan…and frankly, ALL of their ideas were better than mine. We’re looking into building a school garden now, which I would never have considered in a million years. I’m pretty excited about it.
4.) Tap into their interests
If you have a child who loves animals, see about visiting and donating items to a local animal shelter. If your kids are big readers, organize a book drive, or see if there are opportunities for older children to read during library story time, or at an assisted living facility. Show your kids that volunteering can be fun and that there’s a place for everyone’s strengths.
I’m off now, to sort the canned food items the students at our local school just collected for a drive. They were so good at this, I threw my back out yesterday carrying it all.
Do you have tips for teaching children to give back? I’d love to hear them in the comments or on our facebook page!
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I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.