One of the most important lessons from a parent is to teach your child how to be charitable. Teaching your child to give and to help others is one of the most productive methods to counter the consumer culture that encourages a “give me” impulse.

This article will focus on giving, the life skill that will shape your children into good citizens, help them to be thankful for the things they have, and help them develop compassion and understanding for others. As such, it is an important habit for kids to be exposed to at an early age.

My childhood was filled with active service. There was always something to do and someone in need. I can vividly recall helping my mother feed needy families in our neighborhood who may have fallen on rough times due to job loss or long-term illness.

My mom volunteered weekly to manage the food bank at our church. We would shop for, stock, and organize the food bank shelves and freezer with canned goods, perishable items, and frozen meats from the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

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We prepared four or five boxes at a time, paying careful attention to load each box generously and equitably with an item from each major food group and considering each meal that would be made from the food items available.

I can remember feeling like I was running my very own store, and I especially loved being my mom’s little helper. Those in need of food would make it known to the church office, and we’d load the car to personally deliver our creations.

I witnessed the smiles and hugs people gave my mom as they retrieved the goodies from our car. Needs were met, people were grateful, and all was well in the world.

Actively participating and volunteering with my mom along with witnessing people’s appreciation and gratitude were valuable experiences for me as a child.

I learned empathy, kindness, and the importance of people taking care of each other. I also learned that helping others is a healthy habit where money can help fill a need, but that the value of sharing our time and our talent are equal, if not greater, contributions.

The Three T’s of Giving

Giving is all about helping others.

You can give to fill a need, to express love or encouragement, or to bring joy and happiness to the lives of other people. Teach your children the Three T’s of Giving by using their Treasure, Time, and Talent. No matter the method, the goal is to make giving a routine within their daily lives.

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The Gift of Treasures

Giving of your treasures includes contributing money or other possessions to help others.

Examples would be donating money so less-fortunate families can buy school supplies, or buying a toy for a child who may not otherwise receive a gift for their birthday or other special occasion.

If someone in your family is suffering from an illness, consider saving money to give so researchers can find a cure. During Christmas, the whole family could donate money to a charity that has a special meaning.

The Gift of Time

Giving time is another way children can give to other people. As parents, you have almost total control in how your child spends their time outside of school. Getting your children involved in service organizations is just as important to their development as having them play on a sports team or participate in a dance recital.

Encourage your children to use their time doing something for others.

As a child, it may be one of the easier gifts to use. Children can give time to help a neighbor, the community, and the church.

Ways to give that involve your child’s time could include doing yard work for an elderly neighbor, distributing gloves and socks to the people in a homeless shelter, or picking up trash in the community.

The Gift of Talent

We all have a special gift or skill to give and share with other people. Does your child like to sing or draw?

Perhaps they have a special gift with using technology or putting things together. The very talents they could get paid for are the talents and skills they should offer at will to help someone in need or to actively contribute to a cause greater than themselves.

Lead by Example

One of the best ways to model this healthy habit is by example. A poll conducted by TheMint.org found that 77 percent of children under the age of seventeen are either not aware of their parents giving, or know that they give but do not how or to whom.

When you are writing out a check for a charity or to an organization you believe in, it is important to include the kids in the conversation. Let them hear and see that you set aside money for donations, and more importantly, explain why doing so is important to you.

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When discussing what they should do with the money they earn, talk about how you decide how much to set aside for donating with your money. Remind your child from time to time how fortunate they are—not just to have food and shelter, but to also have a family that loves them.

The same principle goes for volunteering your time and talents. Where appropriate, include your children in your volunteer activities and service projects and talk about what volunteering your time and talents mean to you.

I’m not suggesting you drag them to every event, but you also shouldn’t hide your everyday acts of kindness. If you’re taking dinner to a friend who has just been released from the hospital, say so. If you help raise funds for worthy causes through your church, temple, or local community group, talk about it.

By talking about where and how you give, you not only show your kids the importance of giving, but you’re sharing your values about the issues that matter most to your family—whether you’re passionate about supporting the arts, cleaning up the environment, assisting the elderly, or raising money to find a cure for cancer.

When they see and hear about how you practice the three T’s, they will be more inclined to do so as well.

Benefits and Why Giving Is Important

Helping others can teach children invaluable life lessons. Giving can balance out a child’s natural selfishness and persistent desires for toys, games, and other things our consumer culture convinces them to want.

Instead, giving to those in need can help increase your child’s appreciation of the things she has in her own life.

Another great benefit of teaching a child how to be charitable is that donating their treasure, time, and talent gives children a powerful boost in self-esteem. In time, your child will realize their acts of kindness can make a difference in someone’s life.

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The idea isn’t just to inform or expose your child to some of the pain and suffering in the world, but to give your children the great gift of thinking and knowing that they have the power to help make the world a better place.

By incorporating giving into your everyday lives, you will bring out the natural helper in your child, preteen, or teenager. As children grow, so do their opportunities for making a difference.

Before you know it, your child may be taking the lead in choosing charitable projects for your family or identify a need they would like to take on themselves.

Teach your children these three key principles of giving:

  • Give with Purpose

    Being able to give to others is a blessing and should be done on purpose. What I mean is, giving to others is so important that you should plan to give to others.

    Include giving in your spending plan. Similar to saving, giving should be a mandatory line item in every budget.

    After you have saved and covered the costs of your basic needs (I purposely did not mention wants), you should plan to give. Oftentimes, we are able to sacrifice our wants in order to give and really bless someone in need.
  • Give From the Heart

    The size of the gift is not important; however, the intention behind giving is very important. While it is important to acknowledge and encourage our children to be selfless, please try to avoid going overboard with praising your child.

    The objective is to make sure that children avoid giving for reward, recognition, or expecting something in return.
  • Connect Your Giving with Your Interests.

    Make it easy for children to give by connecting with an organization or charity that matches their interests and talents.

    For example, if your child is active, consider signing up for a walk-a-thon or bike-a-thon where they can raise money by doing things they enjoy. Be sure to get your child’s input on what charities the family can support.

When your child feels a part of the decision-making, they are more likely to become interested in the process. Offer your child a few choices of things they might want to do or people they might like to help.

  • Would your daughter like to read books to children in a hospital?
  • Would your son prefer helping you plant trees in the community park?

If your child wants to help animals, search online for agencies or foundations that place animals in healthy environments.

Recommended Activities

Here are a few recommended activities you can complete as a family, but more importantly to demonstrate ways your child can practice being charitable.

  • Teach your child to tithe

    If you attend church, your child can begin donating there. While the Old Testament offers 10 percent as a guideline for tithing, the important first step is simply to give something, no matter the amount.

    The tithe helps your local church and/or ministries so they can help do more for the Kingdom of God.
  • Charity box

    Mark a container in your home that can be routinely filled with gently used clothing and toys to donate to those less fortunate.

    The clothes and toys can be things that the family has outgrown or are no longer used or needed. Make a trip to a charity that needs it and personally deliver the items
  • Care packages for the homeless

    Assemble care packages that can be personally delivered to a homeless shelter or kept in the car and shared in a spontaneous opportunity.

    The contents of the care packages could include bottled water, peanut butter crackers, socks, and a tissue pack.
  • Donate hair to cancer patients

    Has your teen reached a stage where he or she wants to cut their long locks of hair?

    Encourage them to donate what many would love to have and serve chemotherapy patients, or children their age plagued with illnesses that prevent their hair from growing.
  • Cards and appreciation packages to those in the military

    Do you know someone serving in the military? Consider sending them a handwritten thank-you note or holiday card to let them know they are appreciated.

    You could also prepare an appreciation package that includes candy, gum, reading material, crossword puzzles, a t-shirt for their home baseball team, playing cards, and any number of things that you think the person would appreciate, especially if they are serving overseas.
  • Select a charity based on your child’s interests

    As I mentioned earlier, the best way to involve your child is to allow them to serve and help others based on their personal interests.

    When looking for a charity to donate money to, have your child go to a site such as Charity Navigator, an online resource used to make sure the charity is using the money for the actual cause.

    You are looking for charities that give a large portion of their funds to the actual programs they run and not to administrative expenses, such as payroll and fundraising.

Final Thoughts

As we wrap up our post on giving, I am immediately reminded of how Jesus fed more than 5,000 people from five loaves of bread and two fish—all because of a young boy’s generosity.

In addition to making a difference, establishing a healthy giving habit with children is a surefire way for them to learn to be appreciative for the things they have and to have empathy for those who do not have.

In learning the art of fishing, you have to be willing to get your clothes wet and your hands dirty. Similarly, in wanting a better financial future for your child, you have to equip them with the tools and the strategies every child needs to master their money.

Each of the five money-management habits covered in this book will establish the financial foundation your child will need and use as they maneuver through life.

Revisit these chapters as your child matures and grows, download the workbook, and continue to share, teach, and explore with your child. As these money-management habits are taught and practiced, the principles and concepts will produce positive, long-lasting results.