Once again I am in trouble as I sit here watching Oprah on TV. This time it isn't her talk show, but her Big Give show. I get all choked up when I watch shows like this, and I inevitably get thinking about one thing or another that's brought up in the shows. I'm not talking this time about the show itself, which has been criticized by some, but about the idea of charity. How should I go about teaching my kids to be charitable?
They are already aware on a limited basis (at least the 7 year old is) that not everyone has as much as we do. But how can we teach them to really give from their heart, and to understand the impact that they have when they do give? How can we teach them that giving is all about helping others, and while it gives you a fuzzy feeling, it isn't about us at all? How can we teach them to be more generous in their daily lives and to integrate giving into their lives on a regular basis? At what age can we start teaching them, and how can we play catch up if they are older than that? What's the best way to introduce them to the concept in a concrete enough way that they get it?
They are off to a very slow start in this area. But, they have show two instances of tremendous giving. They shared their toys. And not just a few - but lots. When Hurricane Katrina Hit we lived in Texas. My oldest had just turned five, and we heard about a family in need. They were the friends of an old friend of mine, lost their house and two other family houses in the hurricane. Between the three families there were several kiddos around the ages of mine. So, we handed over cribs, highchairs, all kids of other baby things, and toys. Max and his brothers (mostly Max as he understood more) coughed up about half of their toys to give to these kids. We sat down and told him that he was giving his toys away - not getting them back - to a kid who lost everything including his house. He got it, and started pulling out not only the toys that he no longer played with, but also some of his favorites. He said that those favorite toys would make those kids happy. I was so touched that he not only got it, but he took it to heart almost immediately. Here was a five year old not knowing anything about loss or want or need giving to someone whom he has never met and giving whole-heartedly.
So we have continued that about twice a year - clearing out toys and donating them to folks who need them more. We figure that they have more toys than they can possibly play with, and that this is a great opportunity to teach kids about giving. They all get it now, and are very willing to share with others who have less.
The other way that we've taught our kids to be charitable is much less concrete to them. Each week they do chores and receive an allowance. Ten percent of this allowance goes to charity. They get $1 each week, half is spending money, 40% goes to savings, and 10% to charity. As of now they have just put the money into the Charity bank, but haven't decided what to do with it. We told them that we would match whatever they saved up, but haven't done anything more at this point.
So back to the original question. What are the next steps we can take? How do we continue to instill the giving spirit in our kids? In today's hectic life what the best way to slow down and teach the kids that they have LOTS to give - both financially and in spirit?
Cross posted over at DC Metro Moms Blog.