We try to teach our kids to be kind, considerate people. Central to that is helping them understand that they’re part of a much larger world and appreciate their responsibility to contribute, if they’re in a position to, where there’s a need. But when they’re already having a difficult time sharing toys with their siblings or friends, a simple act of kindness can feel like a daunting challenge. Here are a few tips that can help with that.
Help them understand gratitude first
Consider life from your young child’s perspective for a moment: Everything they need, you provide for them. In fact, even before they need anything, you’re usually ready and waiting. That will frame their initial understanding of how the world works.
To help them begin to grasp the concept of giving, they first need to feel gratitude. Rather than waiting for holidays, start to seize moments that occur naturally in your everyday life. At dinner tonight, for example, have everyone at the table share one thing they’re grateful for. The simpler, the better. It’s more likely to stick then.
As those moments become a habit, they’ll start to see how the efforts of others are tied to their needs and wants.
Notice their random acts of kindness
Teaching your kids about giving is really just an extension of all the heavy lifting you’ve already done (and continue to do). Chances are, they’re already engaging in countless random acts of kindness because that’s the kind of person you’re raising. So, the next time you see them do something selfless, make sure they know you noticed, and thank them.
Make an example of yourself
You’ve probably noticed by now that your children mimic much of what you do and say. Whether they’ll ever admit it or not, you are their fearless navigator of this crazy world, at least until they begin to find their own way. Of course, by then, all of those experiences from early in their lives will already have shaped so much of who they are.
That’s to say, make an example of yourself. The next time you round up clothing to donate, or drop off a box of canned foods to your local food shelter, or volunteer for an afternoon with your charity of choice, let your kids tag along, and explain to them along the way what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
Let them have a hand in your giving
And the next time you plan to make a donation, bring your kids in on the act. Maybe even let them click the “send” button. Or, help them find a charity of their own to donate $5 to. Giving doesn’t need to be limited to large sums of money and grand gestures. Every contribution makes a difference. That’s just as important as the concept of giving itself because it will empower them throughout their lives.
There are lots of different ways to donate small but meaningful sums these days. Share the Meal, for example, is an app that enables users to donate as little as the cost of a single meal ($.50). It’s a form of giving that’s been coined “microgiving,” and it’s a great entry point for your little humanitarians.