Teaching Your Children to be Charitable

Writer Simone de Beauvoir once said, “That’s what I consider true generosity: You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.” Being generous and charitable isn’t a hard lesson for children to learn, as they’ll easily see that the rewards speak for themselves. All it takes is modeling this behavior to children through fun and charitable activities and an understanding of empathy.

The key to being a charitable child or adult is empathy. The ability to recognize how someone else is feeling and put yourself into their situation makes us kinder and more generous. When we hurt for someone, we want to help them. Children need to learn how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes before they’ll ever see a real need to be charitable. It’s around four years old that children truly begin to grasp empathy. They can recognize when someone else is hurting and want to do something about that hurt. You can encourage these emotions by teaching children to look at any given situation through someone else’s eyes. Ask them how they would feel if they were hungry or had to go without the things they cherish, like toys on Christmas morning. If they can tap into those feelings and recognize that they are blessed with many things that others are not, they’ll soon want to do something about it. All it takes is asking what they would like to do to help. You’ll find that they’ll come up with creative responses and interesting ideas on how to be charitable.

The easiest way to teach your young ones to be charitable is to model this behavior for yourself. Keep a box that you’ve decorated together in your home and throughout the month, gather things you don’t need. This can be toys or clothes they’ve grown out of, or canned goods, but whatever it is gather it at the end of every month and give them options of different charities to donate to. Explain to them what the different charities are for, and ask them to put themselves in the shoes of the people receiving your donations. Tell them how much they’re helping and what a difference they’re making, all while they’re having fun picking and choosing what to donate and where to donate it to! It’s a great lesson in showing them how they can take control of being charitable; it isn’t just you telling them what to do. It’s all of you working together to help someone in need.

You should teach your children that though giving away gifts and money is important and does so much good, it isn’t just those things that make up charity. They can be generous and charitable every day without spending a dime or giving a single thing away. Charity can be as simple as picking something up for someone who’s dropped it, doing an extra favor for a friend who is having a hard time, or saying a kind word to someone who might be feeling down. Anything to lift someone’s spirits is charitable and kind, and it’s important that your kids practice these little lessons in giving every day. They can make it a goal each morning when they get up to do one charitable thing throughout the course of their day, and everyone can share when they come home what they did for someone else. It’s not just great for your kids – it’s great for parents, too! The harder they see you trying, the harder they’ll want to try, as well.

The most important thing about teaching young ones to be charitable is to help them understand that by giving something away, whether it be toys or their time, they aren’t actually losing anything. In fact, they’ve gained something; whether it be strength of character, a new friend, or the satisfaction of a job well done, charity isn’t a one-way street. Everyone wins.