4 -: Ways to Raise a Generous Child
Raising a generous child in the middle of a selfie generation can seem like an impossible task. By teaching your kids that they can be generous with their time, talents, and money, at an early age, you are more likely to raise them to think of others around them. While we can’t guarantee that these tips will yield the next Ghandi, we do know that it is a great starting point.
1. Take them shopping for others.
When the next birthday invitation arrives in the mail, resist the urge to just grab something from the sale bin on your next solo Target run. Instead, use the upcoming birthday for a chance to showcase generosity. Invite your preschooler to think of ideas of what the birthday boy/girl might like for their gift. Go on and bring up the topic a few times throughout the week, making sure that you direct the conversation away from items that your child might like. Then, load up your kiddo and hit the store as a team. Before heading into the store, set up the expectation that “we aren’t buying for us today, but for our friend”. Head to the toy aisle, and let your little one lead the way to items that the birthday child would like. Give your child a few options that fit your budget, and let them make the final decision. Most importantly, leave the store without purchasing anything for your child. While shopping for a birthday gift might seem simple, intentionally making the event all about the birthday child, and not about your own child, is a great way to set up the foundations of giving to, and thinking of, others.
2. Take care of your neighbours.
Whether you live in a single family home neighborhood, an apartment complex, or otherwise, teaching generosity can start with being a good neighbor. Your preschooler, or elementary schooler, can find at least ten people to help just by looking out the window. When you are out with your child shoveling the snow, keep on shoveling your neighbor’s sidewalk. Or, the next time you make a big batch of cookies with your second grader, wrap up a few to walk across the street. Even better, buy a few bouquets of clearance flowers the next time you are at the grocery store, break them up and pass out a few blooms to neighbors on your block. Not only will you learn the names of your neighbors (if you don’t already), your child will see that giving can make other people smile.
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3. Open the piggy bank.
As your little one accumulates his own money, be sure he designates a certain percentage for giving. Some families use spend/save/give envelopes, and other families simply have kids raid the piggy bank to give money to important causes.
4. Let them pick their causes.
If they are giving their money, your child should be able to give to the charity or cause of his choice (within reason, of course). When your child is younger, it can be difficult for them to choose a cause. During this time, focus on giving them choices that help other kids. My preschooler likes to donate his “give” money to our local food pantry to help “other kids who don’t have enough to eat”. He is able to relate to this much easier than a national organization.
5. Serve others first.
Almost every kid wants to be first – first in line, first to get a slice of pizza, first to try a new toy. When teaching generosity, it is important to stress the importance of letting others go first. Make it a conscious effort to let others go first. “Let’s let Jimmy have the first slice of pizza since he is our guest,” or “Daddy had a busy day at work today, so let’s give him the first piece of pie after dinner,” or even “Sophie should try the new Elsa karaoke machine first since it was her birthday gift,” can go a long way in a little one’s mind.
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6. Make your birthday about someone else.
One of our favorite ways to instill a culture of generosity in our family is to pair birthday parties with giving. Our little one chooses a charity (we help him by narrowing down the choices), and we invite party-goers to collect spare change for the month before the party. On our son’s birthday party, we collect all the spare change and donate it to the charity. His pirate’s booty challenge brought in over $100 for our local food pantry, and this year we are collecting for a local organization that brings indoor camp out kits to kids who are fighting cancer. It’s fun, and inspiring to other families, to watch spare change turn in to something amazing.
7. Make 2 of everything.
That rainy day craft project your third grader is working on? Have him make 2 – one to keep and one to give to the person of his choice. Coloring with your preschooler? Have her color two sheets and mail one to someone she chooses. This is an easy way to teach your child to share their talents, and it will certainly brighten the day of a neighbor or long distance friend. Plus, you might just be surprised to hear who your little one wants to give their creation to.
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8. Make giving fun.
Giving to others is fun! We like to make it extra fun in our house by giving in sneaky ways to random people. Pre-load the quarter machines at your local grocery store together, and talk about how much fun the next kid is going to have turning the knobs and getting the prizes. Pay for the Happy Meal of the kid in line behind you. Put a few $5 Toys R Us gift cards on windshields of cars in the local elementary school’s parking lot. Have fun running around together, and talk about how the receivers of your random acts of kindness will act or look when they get their surprise.
9. Hit the Dollar Store.
Your preschooler + your local dollar store + $5 = magic. Whether you bring your child to the dollar store to shop for a family birthday or just because, give him money and a mission. Then, let him lead the way around the store and choose gifts. Not only is it heartwarming (and sometimes hilarious) to hear what their little brains are thinking when they are shopping for someone else, the shopping trip empowers them to be generous and thoughtful.
10. Lead by example.
Talk to your child about why you volunteer, or give money, to your favorite organizations. Tell them how it makes you feel, and why you do it. Let your child see you mail off your donation check or hit “submit” on your next online charity transaction. Our children see what we do, and base their value system on the family culture. Make the giving of your time, talents, and money a cornerstone of your family, and your child will pick up on that from the very beginning.
Written by: Haley Burress