Teaching children to be charitable

The world we live in today seems more and more to place importance on ‘stuff’ – the material things that it seems necessary to own to be accepted and valued by others. This is certainly the case for adults but is not all that different for children; I only have to look at the birthday and Christmas lists that the young children in my family write (and then see the number of items on the list they receive) to realise this: the latest phone or tablet, computer consoles and games, Lego sets and replica football kits to name but a few. These things may make our children feel good, but how long does this feeling really last? How long are those ‘must have’ items are looked after and cared for by them after they’ve been unwrapped?

I am a great believer in the idea that the values we should be striving to instil in our children, those that will see them grow into the citizens of the world that we want to see, are those that relate to them being empathic, caring of and kind to others. In other words, we should be teaching our children how to be charitable. The benefits of bringing children up in this way include teaching them to be grateful for the things that they have, but giving to others also helps to balance out their desire for having the latest 'must-have' item.  

There are lots of ways to teach children to be more charitable, some involve giving money but others simply require them (and you!) to give their time. Here are some ideas:

1.       Spend, Save, Give

Do you give your child pocket money? Do they receive money as presents for birthdays or religious holidays? Consider setting up three jars or boxes and label them ‘Spend’ ‘Save’ and ‘Give’. Make an agreement with your child that every time they receive some money they will put some in each of the three jars, but let them choose how to divide it up. Then let them decide what they want to do with their ‘Give’ money when it reaches a certain amount.  

2.       Volunteer together as a family

There are some great causes that whole families can participate in, which not only allow you to spend time together as a family (we all know how hard that can be!) but also let your children see you as parents putting your money where your mouth is! There is no better way to teach your child something than leading by example. Look out for local projects that you can get involved in – doing something that you can actually see the benefit of can have even more impact.

3.       Extend joyful times to help others

Did you just celebrate the arrival of a new furry family member? Someone get a top grade on an exam? Mark special family occasions by supporting causes that make children reflect on just how special they are. Consider supporting projects that protect pets (especially if you have one), or those that provide scholarships or bursaries for students who otherwise wouldn’t receive an education.

4.       I don’t use it anymore – someone else will

Look for items around the house – clothes, books, toys – that are still in good condition and choose a charity to donate them to. You could also task your children with adding an extra basket of long-life groceries or toiletries to your weekly shop and drop these off at a local food bank.

5.       Happy birthday to me…and you!

Turn a birthday party into a fundraiser. Talk to your child about encouraging some guests to donate to a chosen charity of your child’s in lieu of a birthday present. You’d be surprised at how generous people can be when they feel like they are doing something charitable themselves, and even more so when the request for that charitable act has come from a child! This is one that is obviously very easy to do for babies and much younger children as they wouldn’t know any different, but if it becomes an annual thing that just ‘happens’ in your family then your child won’t ever feel like they’re losing out.

If you have any other ideas for how to teach children to be charitable then share them in the comments below.