I’m teaching my kids to be givers. It’s no easy feat in this day and age of entitlement. Not long ago, one of my kids demanded a new gadget: “I want it. So-and-so has one, so why can’t I?”
(Insert “I Want it Now” a la Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.)
My child’s demand stirred something in me. It made me angry and embarrassed. I didn’t like that my kid thought he should have something expensive just because.
“Did you know that some kids in the world don’t have food to eat? Their mommies don’t have food to give them, so guess what they do? They take mud and make pies with it, just so their kids will have something to chew on and fill their tummies.”
“Do you think mud pies would taste good?”
“We are very lucky, guys. We have food to eat every day. We have a home to live in and clothes to wear. Many people in the world don’t.”
Talk about it.
Since that conversation, I’ve decided to be more intentional about raising kids who are givers. We talk about other people and their needs, which helps my kids to take the focus off of themselves. Think about people you see every day, such as your elderly neighbor or a homeless man at an intersection. Then, talk about the larger picture and the needs of people around the world.
What can you do?
Brainstorm ways to help others. We can’t afford to help everyone and meet every need, but doing a little is better than doing nothing at all.
We keep bags of snacks and toiletries in the car. When we see a homeless person holding a sign at a busy intersection, we hand him/her one of the bags. You’d be surprised at how excited your kids will be to do this. I routinely hear from the back seat, “There’s someone, Mommy! Let’s give him a bag!”
Handing out bag of goodies not only allows your kids to help others, it teaches them the joy that comes from giving. The bags don’t need to be fancy. Just take some gallon-sized Ziplock bags and fill them with water bottles, granola bars, applesauce, and other non-perishable items. For toiletry bags, consider a bar of soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and a brush or comb. Chapstick, cough drops, gloves, and/or socks are a few other items you may wish to include. All of these things can be found at the Dollar Store. Another word of advice: keep the snack bags and toiletry bags separate. Once, I made the mistake of putting soap in the same bag as the snacks and I ended up with cheese crackers that tasted like soap!
Another idea for the homeless is buying $5 gift cards to fast food restaurants. I keep them in my purse so I have them readily available.
You can also teach your kids to give back to the people you see every day. We bake treats for our neighbors and teachers to show we appreciate them. You should have seen the look on a widowed neighbor’s face when we showed up with Valentine’s Day cookies one year. She was thrilled, but my kids and I were probably more excited than she was! We really made her day!
With Thanksgiving and Christmastime around the corner, there are plenty of opportunities to give. Consider donating canned goods to a food drive. Many schools and churches collect food to donate to the less fortunate. You can also have your children shop for toys to donate to a toy drive. Toys for Tots has been around for years. In our family, we like to put together boxes for Operation Christmas Child. These boxes are gifted to kids around the world who would otherwise not have a gift for Christmas.
Your kids can help you come up with great ideas for giving to others. Encourage them to follow through with their ideas. Take them with you when you shop for others. Let them decide which toys or snacks other people would like. Give them ownership of as much as they can handle. Don’t be surprised when they ask you when they can do it again.
Raising our kids to be thoughtful, kind, and generous is possible, if we teach them to shift the focus from themselves to others. It took me 32 years to learn that giving truly is better than receiving, and I’m hoping to teach my kids at a much younger age. Join me in teaching your kids, too.