There are many attributes parents and teachers aspire to help develop within their children and being charitable is one of them. The importance of raising children that are interested in philanthropy and helping others cannot be emphasized enough because humans are social animals and must help each other out to flourish.
First, let’s look at why children, or anyone else for that matter, should take an interest in charity, donations and philanthropy.
4 reasons why charity is important
Charitable giving is important for different reasons:
Charitable giving satisfies a human instinct
Humans are empathetic by nature, which means, that at the most basic level, we feel uncomfortable when we witness others suffer. Kids have similar reactions too. This is why, being charitable is a rewarding effort – helping others creates an empowering and enriching experience for the giver. In other words, giving is good for you – for your soul.
Charity helps you appreciate your life
Apart from creating a fulfilling experience, charitable giving also leads to an appreciation of the numerous privileges enjoyed by the giver. This is because the act of charity highlights the stark differences in the lifestyles of the low income and middle/high income groups. For instance, we would never be grateful for a regular pair of socks until we see someone walking without them in the cold weather, and when we choose to donate a pair of socks to that unfortunate person, we realize how privileged we are for owning something as trivial as socks and how blessed we are for being on the ‘giving’ side of the donation instead of the ‘receiving’ side.
When we see and understand the different levels of privilege that occur within our society,we develop empathy and gratitude for all our blessings.
Charity is important because it teaches us about budgeting
When we choose to make financial donations, we set aside money to give away from our income. The decision to not use the money ourselves teaches us financial discipline and restraint. When we choose to engage in charitable donations, we control our desires for instant gratification, and that is an important stepping stone on the path towards financial independence.
Charitable giving is an attempt to make a social change
The existence of economic inequalities is a harsh reality of this world. Although public policy deals with the goal of eliminating, or at least, reducing the gap between rich and poor, individuals can also pitch in to make an impact. When we donate to those at the bottom of the pyramid, we attempt to address these inequalities at the grassroot level. Of course, governments and NGOs work towards eradicating poverty, but of great importance is the role that the public has to play in this goal.
4 ways to teach kids about being charitable
Now that we know the importance of sowing the seeds of philanthropy within the society, we can look at how to inculcate this as a habit within kids.
Being charitable is something that can be taught to children at a young age, well before they earn for themselves or receive an allowance. Parents may have a central role in this regard but school teachers play a vital part when it comes to reinforcing the habit.
Here are three ways parents and teachers can go about the task of encouraging charitable kids who actively help the poor.
1. Create a culture that promotes charitable giving
Parents can create a culture of giving at home by encouraging children to share their belongings among family members. When positive reinforcement and praise follow each act of giving/sharing between siblings, even if it is for something as menial as a pencil or a spoon, kids begin to associate the act of giving with good feelings of self-worth.
Eventually, parents can guide their children to give away old toys, clothes or a portion of their allowances to charity.
Similarly, schools can hold charity fundraising drives and reward every student who participated, regardless of the amount of money or items gathered by the students.
Every little contribution and effort must be appreciated by parents and teachers so children can begin to enjoy the act of giving.
2. Offer a range of avenues for the charitable acts of children
Remember to give your kids the option to choose where their donations go because it makes them feel more empowered. Choices can include well established charitable trusts, schools in under privileged areas, homeless shelters, random poor people they see on the streets, or even Goodwill. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of people who need money to survive, and you can share the list with children when they have decided what to donate, talking about the different positions and needs of each type of avenue.
Schools can hold fundraising campaigns for different groups throughout the year to draw attention towards a variety of charities, ranging from health to academic non-profit organisations.
3. Set good examples of charity for children/students to emulate
Kids learn by example and every charitable effort made by parents and teachers gets recorded as a desirable act in the minds of children. Parents and teachers may want to first explain why it’s important to make donations so children have a bit of context.
Kids may also tag along with their parents whenever a deposit is made to Goodwill or other charitable organisations. Alternatively, if it’s safe enough, children can accompany their parents to give alms directly to a person in need.
It’s a good idea to mention the impact that the donated items will have on the charity or individuals receiving the donation because children will better understand the goodness of giving.
4. Volunteer work can teach kids to follow suit
Parents must encourage every family member to seek out volunteering opportunities and participate in them, as long as it is safe to do so. While grownups may engage in high-involvement work like volunteering at old age homes or cooking meals to distribute among homeless people, children can help out in smaller community service projects like collecting money, old toys or clothes for an underprivileged person or helping an elderly neighbor clean their yard, all under the supervision of their parents.
At the same time, schools can arrange safe youth volunteering opportunities for students to engage in.
The added benefit of teaching charity through volunteer work is that children understand that donating their time can be just as good and powerful as donating physical items or money.
A quick location-based internet search will reveal community service ideas as well as youth volunteer opportunities near you, so parents can go through the list together with their kids to determine the best options.
What’s the best way to teach children about charitable giving in your opinion?