Helping others is a critical life skill that parents can begin teaching early to raise positive children that make the world a better place.
“By the time kids enter elementary school, they should know not to interrupt, be expected to hold a door open for others, should be able to help shop for and put away groceries and do nice things for other people,” advises Alyson Schafer, one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts and author of Honey, I Wrecked the Kids.
To teach children to care for others, Schafer offers these top tips:
Make it sweet. Start with actions like baking cookies together and sharing them with others. When you deliver each batch, ask your child to remember how that act of caring made the recipient feel. Each time another batch of cookies goes into the oven is a perfect time to remind kids of the smile on Grandma’s face last time you surprised her with her favourite treat.
Be realistic. Philanthropy has to come from the heart. Forcing your kids to act in a charitable way does not work — that’s why the jar system of saving, spending and donating money from things like allowance doesn’t lead to authentic altruistic actions in most households.
Find their passion. Intrinsic motivation offers the strongest teachable moments. When a child sees something that they know is not fair or not right, that’s when parents need to jump in and say, “This sounds like something that matters to you, what can we do to take action on it?”
Have a ball and do some good. When kids raise money for a cause they care about, they feel empowered. A fun and celebratory way to do this is through a birthday fundraiser. Pick a local charity and have guests make a donation in lieu of gifts. Ronald McDonald House Charities has an online birthday fundraising tool that makes donations easy. It’s win-win: you get less toys that break or end up in a landfill and everyone contributes to the great cause of helping families stay close to their sick child.
Practice what you preach. Model charitable behaviours and teach these lessons early so that it becomes a part of your family routine. To demand a charitable action could seem like punishment to a child, but if you’ve always given back to others it simply becomes second nature.