One of the concepts I think very important to teach my son is that of giving. I want him to grow up sympathetic to others, and willing to help them. Giving to charity is one way that my son can give back, and learn how to think of others, and not just himself, or his own fun. My husband and I often talk about our hopes and fears for our son, and our biggest concern is that he grow up to be kind and helpful.
While it would be nice if he did something amazing, and became famous for some great accomplishment, the reality is that we will consider ourselves successful if he can support himself, mostly enjoy his life, and be willing to give to others. Now that he’s 12, we are seriously considering what we can do to help him develop the habits that lead to generosity down the road.
Practical Giving Experiences
Sure, you can take your child on an “alternative spring break” to another country to do good. In fact, if you can manage that, I think such experiences can be very beneficial. But I’m more interested in every day, practical giving experiences that can help my son shape his daily life. As a result of this, we are looking out for opportunities to let him use his money for good causes, as well as participate in service projects.
My son has been paying tithing for several years now. He sets aside 10% of his income for giving. Lately, though, I’m not sure that all of that 10% needs to go to a church congregation. There are plenty of other good ways to donate to charity, and these other ways are more visible to him, and more practical. While I think it’s good for him to give to the church, I also like the idea of him using his money in other ways. You give the money to the church, and you don’t really see the benefits. What is that money used for? So my husband and I are looking for additionally ways for my son to practice philanthropy.
Part of that 10% can easily be used for something else. His middle school does an annual teddy bear drive for the hospital. I can take a portion of the 10% set aside for giving and and buy a teddy bear for the drive. That way, he sees his giving in action. It gives him more choice over the outcome.
Additionally, there are a number of service projects that are worth him participating in. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service is recognized in the community, and the service club at my son’s school is arranging an activity in which they pack lunches for a local shelter. He’s ready to participate in that activity. He is also exposed to service projects through 4-H and Scouting. I also loved that he participated in the St. Jude’s Math-A-Thon this year.
In many cases, there are opportunities all around to give your time and your money to worth causes. In recent years, I’ve been caught up in giving money to different charities, from the local food bank to the Red Cross to other organizations. However, that’s not very active. While my financial contribution is doubtless appreciated, I see that I need to be more involved in daily giving through service, as well as by contributing money. It’ll set a better example for my son (who can’t see all the automatic contributions made), and it will probably benefit me as well.
Kids like to see that what they do matters. If you can help your child see how he or she can positively impact the community with time and money given, you could help them develop long-term habits of compassion and giving — and possibly contribute to a better world.