According to Psychology Today, most habits are formed by age nine. That’s right—by the time a person is nine years old, he or she has already developed the habits that he or she will live by for the rest of his or her life. For this reason, it is more important than ever that parents, teachers, and community leaders take active measures to encourage and introduce good habits at a young age. One such habit children should learn is charitable giving.
According to another report, 90 percent of children have donated to a charity at least once in their lives, but is giving really the same as doing? Experts say yes and no. On the one hand, giving money you don’t need to someone in greater need teaches compassion, while on the other, it tells children that you need cash to make a difference. This is far from the case. Children need to learn that they can make an impact by lending their compassion, skills, and resources to people in need. If you’re looking for ways to help your little one give back and to help him or her form admirable life-long habits, you’re in the right place.
Educate Your Children
Whether you encourage your children to donate time, money, or belongings, always let them know where they’re resources are going. This helps them understand why they’re helping and instills the compassion that comes with giving. If you don’t educate your children on the charity, you risk robbing them of one of the greatest benefits of charitable donation.
Allow Freedom of Choice
Once your child begins to understand that giving improves the lives of others, allow him or her to choose to which charity he or she wants to donate. Start off small by giving two to three options. For instance, you may give your child the choice between People & Planet, vInspired, or UNESCO. Explain who or what each charity helps and allow your child to determine what is most important to him or her. By giving your child options, you can not only ensure that he or she remains engaged in the cause but also, you can help exercise his or her independence.
Keep Your Children Engaged
People don’t form habits overnight, and they certainly do not form them after one quick trip to the soup kitchen. If you want to ensure that your children become lifelong givers like Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, you need to keep them actively involved. By remaining involved in the charity of their choice, your children can see the differences their making in other people’s lives and build lasting relationships with both other volunteers and recipients of their compassion. Both of these things will encourage them to keep giving.
The worst thing you can do with a child of any age is to patronize them, especially when they’re doing something for the greater good. Treat your child as an adult at all stages of the charitable process. When allowing your children to pick the charity of their choices, don’t guilt them into choosing your charity by making them feel silly about their own decision or by making them feel as if their charity of choice is less important. If you want your child to enjoy giving back, make the process one about which they feel proud.
Don’t Make Giving Feel Like a Chore
Life is not always fun, and it is not always easy, and while these are two truths all children need to understand, kids still need time to be kids. If your child is good about maintaining his or her charitable commitment most of the time but just doesn’t feel like volunteering one random Saturday, don’t force the issue. This could be a sign that your child needs a rest, whether physical or emotional. Respect that and allow your little giver the day off. Chances are, he or she will be ready to serve the following weekend.
If the issue is ongoing, sit down and talk to your child. He or she may no longer be interested in the cause, or there may be a problem at school. Forcing your child to participate in a charity will not help him or her with his or her own issues, and nor will it make him or her excited to give. The last thing you want to do is make volunteering feel like a chore or a punishment. It needs to feel like a privilege or something your child wants to do, to become a habit.
Set an Example
The best way to teach a child something is to lead by example. If you want your child to be a life-long giver, give back yourself. Find a charity that interests you and make it a family affair. As your child grows and sees how much more well-rounded you are as a result of your charitable efforts, he or she will be motivated to follow in your footsteps.