How To Raise A Generous Kid

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How do you raise empathetic children? It's something any mother wants. And it is something that has come up here before. If you're like me, you find yourself wondering how to instill values of generosity and empathy, especially when our kids, for the most part (and knock on wood), will never know "want."

Along those lines, A., a reader, forwarded me this post from her blog, the South Asian Philanthropy project, addressing this exact issue.

Great tips for something well worth keeping in the backdrop of our minds all the time. Do you have ways in which you are consciously raising generous, charitable children? Please share!
Anonymous said...

I am always concerned with this but I don't really now how to do "charity" work with a 2 year old? Looking forward to hearing peoples suggestions!

jp said...

Believe it or not you can find really great cartoons that begin explaining charity and givingness to kids. I saw an episode of "Franklin" all about it!

l said...

We stumbled upon doing this because our house was overrun with toys and now its a tradition: Every Christmas, my three kids pick toys of theirs to give to kids in need. They actually look forward to it at this point!

Caitlin said...

Nice link and I couldn't agere more about the influence of an adult role model. I think the best thing we can do for our kids especiallly if they are young is just be charitable and generous ourselves.

vera said...

With young kids it's definitely harder but by simply teaching them to do unto others and good manners you are setting an example of real character to come later. My kids are now 8 and 7 and they tell ME things they want to do for other people. It's not as if I was taking them to do charity work every weekend when they were small, it's more subtle than that.

lyvia said...

An easy suggestion: Get your kids involved in packing and donating the clothes they outgrow each season. It eliminates clutter in your house and reminds them that there are kids in need.

A harder suggestion: "random acts of kindness"... My husband is the master of this so I cannot take credit for this idea, but ever since I've known him, he would do something incredibly kind, out of the blue, for someone random, for no particular reason at all! The things he gives aren't necessarily expensive: a bottle of water on a hot day to the parking lot security guy, a subway sandwich to the homeless lady on the corner, an Angels hat to the gardener's son... However, these random acts of kindness remind me to stop every once in awhile and see (really see) all those people in the world around us, people we pass by every day, at the newspaper stand, at the subway -- people who are a part of the backdrop of our world. AND ... this post is so timely because yesterday, my 3 yr old son noticed that my husband ordered an extra sandwich at dinner. Full of questions, my son asked who the extra sandwich was for? My husband replied, "It's for someone who's hungry". "Who's hungry, daddy?" my son asked. "There's always someone's who's hungry" my husband said. On the way home, my husband gave the sandwich to the security guard who hadn't had his dinner break yet. My son nodded sagely and said "the gate man was hungry."

Anonymous said...

That is such a great idea, the random acts thing. One time the person in front of me at a toll paid my toll. Cost them, what, 3 dollars? It made me feel sort of happy and connected to the world all day.

Bahar said...

@ lyvia: awesome story! you've inspired me to try this myself!

Anonymous said...

I think the best thing you can do is to expose your children to a diversity of experiences, lifestyles, people from as early an age as possible. It instills the idea that the world doesn not revolve around you.

Archana said...

What a great discussion - thanks for the link to our site! One friend and mom gives her child an allowance, but talked with him about designating a portion of it to charity - each year, he chooses the charity at the holidays and gives the portion that he has saved up. He also uses part of it for himself, and saves part of it for college. I love that idea and want to try it when our baby is old enough!

rickshawdiaries said...

A great question!

I really believe one has to lead with one's own thoughtful example. That means not only setting a good example through service & philanthropy, but really assessing one's own lifestyle to see if that reflects the notion of "enough" or "moremoremore".

What is enough for me? It may be very different than what that means for another person, but if I do not assess it for myself I will never know what enough shoes, work hours, bedrooms, sq footage, cars, clothes, quality time, meditation or anything else really means or looks like to me.

If I don't know what "enough" is, I will never be able to get off the hamster wheel of "moremoremore" & neither will my kids.

I don't have kids (yet) but I work in philanthropy & this question occupies my mind. I have lots of nieces and nephews and what I've noticed is that while they have their own personalities, they are also clear reflections of their parents personalities. If a parent is grounded in "enough" and simplicity and leads by service and philanthropy, the child is very likely to be empathetic and eager to serve too.

Some things I do with my nieces and nephews is encourage them to join my own spring cleaning efforts by giving away toys and clothes they are no longer using in order to help other kids.

I try to make birthdays less about the me-me-me spectacle with tons of toys and more about the one toy that they are really going to love & play with for a longer time, while also remembering those less fortunate by selecting & giving a new toy to a child in need.

I like to give kids money to give away too, to cultivate their sense of philanthropy. They can spend 50 cents of the dollar I give them on purchasing something for themselves at the grocery store for example, but the other 50 cents has to go to charity. My niece got a huge kick out not only making her very own first purchase by herself, but also from then dropping her remaining coins into a box to help low-income families in the area.

By allowing them to buy something for themselves at the same time they never feel deprived, but can take joy in sharing & giving too. Hopefully it's a high they get hooked on early! :)

Where I spend my time while with them is important too. My downtime with them is never in malls or toy stores, but always at the beach or a park. Enjoying activities with them that have nothing to do with spending money reminds us all that many of the most special experiences in life are free.

If philanthropy and service are natural & ingrained in us individually, they will be in our kids too. Not easy to do in a consumerist society but well worthwhile to try for the happiness it brings to oneself & to kids.



Anonymous said...

This is such a great post and such a great discussion. It's embarrasing to me to think about how much time I spend schlepping my kids from, say, Target to the gas station and considering that an "outing." I like Baraka's point about the proper way to spend time and how that is an end in and of itself.

Tricia said...

Does anybody know of actual volunteering opportunities open to children or families with children? I'm all for this sort of soft approach of teaching our kids to be good people but I think actual activity is important too and my kids are just too young for most volunteering opportunities that I can think of. All help appreciated!


rickshawdiaries said...

Tricia, you're absolutely right!

I live in San Francisco and volunteer through Hands on Bay Area which specifically lists activities that are good for families with kids under 16. Activities include making sandwiches at Glide Church, distributing food at the SF Food Bank, & sprucing up the SF Zoo, beaches & museum grounds.

If there isn't an organization in your area, one can start volunteer projects with family & friends. A bunch of my friends independently organize a brown bag lunch food distribution in Union Square once a month, and kids are welcome to come help make peanut butter & jelly sandwiches & pass them out with an adult to the homeless & others in need.

PS - Deepa, love your blog!

Buy Kamagra said...

This is something just a mother can reach, because we know all our children want, for example I have a child who has Down syndrome it's really hard to understand him but only the mother can support this kind of children.

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