Teaching kids about giving back

Children can learn to be charitable from a young age if you make giving an integral part of your family’s lifestyle.


Children whose parents talk to them about giving back are 20 percent more likely to give to charity than children whose parents don’t discuss philanthropy with them, according to a 2013 study commissioned by the United Nations Foundation. Apparently, donating money to charity isn’t enough – parents also need to have focused talks with their kids about the importance of being generous.

While many families are charitable during the holidays, those who make giving back one of their core values throughout the year are much more likely to raise altruistic children. Forcing kids to give to others once a year when they’re accustomed to receiving presents can make them resentful. But if they’re used to giving on a regular basis, it will seem natural to do so during the holidays.

So how can you teach your children to be generous with their time, energy and money? Here are seven easy ways.

  1. Let your kids choose a charity

If you’d like to make a one-off donation or monthly payments to a charity, let your children choose the cause so they feel connected to it and compelled to help. They might want to donate to the local animal shelter or to children in a developing country who need school supplies. Throughout the year, you can also make donations to help victims of natural disasters and other tragedies that have touched your children’s hearts.

  1. Give away old toys and books before receiving new ones

Create a family tradition whereby each family member must get rid of three items (toys, books, and so on) before they receive presents for their birthday or the holidays. (You too, parents!) Let each child choose which items to give away because forcing them to part with their favorite toys will make them begrudge giving back. Then, let them bring the items to a charitable organization so they can speak to the volunteers there and understand what will happen to their toys.

  1. Help your neighbors

Being charitable isn’t just about signing a check or giving old stuff away – you can also be generous with your time. Help neighbors who are elderly, ill or simply need a hand by doing small repairs around their home, mowing their lawn or shoveling snow off their driveway. Your children will learn by example.

  1. Volunteer in your community

Another great way to show your children how to give hands-on help is to volunteer as a family at a local soup kitchen, women’s shelter, animal shelter or any other community organization. While many people volunteer during the holidays, you can make an even bigger impression on your kids by giving your time throughout the year when most people don’t and help is really needed.

  1. Teach your children to be kind and compassionate

The best way to teach your children to be generous of spirit is to model it in your interactions with others. When a friend or a stranger is upset or needs help, give them your attention even if it isn’t convenient. If your child is feeling sad or unwell, drop what you’re doing and attend to their needs. You can also point out ways in which your children can help other kids feel better when they’re upset, such as by asking them if they’re okay and offering them a hug. Openly discussing these principles with them will reinforce their value.

  1. Start a family charity jar

Designate a donation jar and ask each member of the family to chip in a portion of their allowance or salary each week. When it’s full, ask each of your children to nominate a charity to receive it. If they feel strongly about their cause, they can chip in more money to “win” the jar for their charity. Donating some of their hard-earned dough will make giving back more meaningful than if it’s just Mom and Dad’s money.

  1. Give blood

This is a selfless act that doesn’t cost a cent but can save people’s lives. Bring your children to the blood drive or donor center so they can see that giving blood isn’t scary and speak to the volunteers about how your blood will be used to help others.

  1. Buy gifts from companies that give back

When buying gifts for your family and friends, choose companies that give back by donating money or products to charity. For example, Lorena Canals rugs gives a large portion of its proceeds to provide schooling for children in northern India and Tiny Bee Gift Co donates a book to a low-income child for every book purchased on The Tot. STATE Bags also do wonderful work with the disenfranchised. For every STATE bag sold, one is donated to a child in need (it’s also packed full of school essentials to boot). So far, the pair have delivered over 30,000 backpacks to kids across America. Don’t forget to explain to your kids how your purchases help others.