Below are seven tips that can help you begin to broach the subject with your children.
As simple as it seems, using words like “share,” “give,” and “together” can positively impact your child. No child is too young to start learning how to share or to be selfish—just think of how soon some children start saying, “Mine!” If children can learn the language of selfishness so early on, they are capable of its opposite with a bit of good parenting and correction. An example might be asking your child if she would like to share a snack with you. By using the language of sharing, you can set an example in action and vocabulary for your children that they will naturally pick up from you.
By positive reinforcement, we mostly mean praise. When your children share well or treat others kindly, let them know how proud you are. Tell them that they are acting just the way you had hoped they would. Thank them for being generous. Once again, use the language of sharing in your praise, and your children will be motivated to behave similarly again!
If you are able, demonstrate financial generosity to your children and allow them to be a part of the process. Brainstorm causes that spark your family’s interest. If your children love animals, for instance, consider supporting a local zoo, wildlife conservation fund, or shelter. Older children can help research the beliefs of different organizations or help decide fund allocations if your family decides to support more than one charity. Not only will your children learn how to be generous with their money, but they will practice math and research skills, too.
If you want your children to be generous with their time as well as their resources, set an example by volunteering yourself. Growing up in a family that volunteers will encourage children to keep volunteering when they become adults. If you are already involved in some community project, great! Take your kids with you to volunteer. If you have not yet found a place to volunteer, no worries! Websites like VolunterMatch.org can help you find local places to volunteer, whether it be a food bank, a local garden, or a library. If your child has a particular interest, finding a project that is related to that interest could fuel a lifelong passion.
One of the most tangible ways for a child to practice generosity is in donating his or her own precious belongings to others. Ask your children to sort through their nicer toys to find something for a sick friend or a Christmas shoebox. If your child comes back to you with a ratty-looking toy, talk to her about how she would feel if someone gave that to her. Encourage your children to choose someone else’s happiness over something they may like but not necessarily need.
This simple idea can be put into practice every day. When your child expresses a desire for something, just ask him or her what someone else would want. For instance, ask your child what her brother would like for an after school snack when she announces that she wants pretzels. Encouraging your children to think of someone else reminds them that they are not the only ones with preferences and teaches them to be considerate of others.
Your children may expect everyone’s life to run much like their own. If they always have a place to live, clean water to drink, and food on the table, they may not understand that not everyone has these necessities. Talk to your children about those in need and find ways to help others with those needs. For instance, you could talk to your children about hunger before volunteering at a food bank, or discuss children who do not have a good home before taking in a foster child. Whatever the case may be, be prepared to suggest tangible ways your family can help others, for your generous children will want to share.