Dec. 1, 2017
If this past Giving Tuesday showed us anything, it’s that there’s a bright spot of people willing to give back and make positive change in the world. We’ve also seen an inspiring wave of children taking part in charitable giving this year.
If you’re hoping to jumpstart a conversation about charitable giving with your own children, here are some tips from James R. Doty, director and founder of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, who worked in collaboration with GoFundMe on its Parents Guide.
Live by example. “We know that our children model our behavior and when you demonstrate that you have care and concern for others, especially in regard to suffering, and act on that, then your children model their own behavior on that,” Doty says. “When they see that you care, that you make an effort, then they integrate that into who they are.”
Talk, often. “We often forget that we are privileged and that how we live is not how others live,” Doty says. The key is to instill a passion to be of service and to try to help others who are less privileged than they are—and this begins with conversation. Doty suggests finding topics that resonate with your child, whether it’s talking about someone who’s hungry, homeless or is fighting a disease. Discuss how that might feel for them, and ways in which you can help.
Start Your Dialogue Early. The earlier you can start the conversation with your child, before he or she encounters learned behaviors such as identifying differences and biases, the easier it is to make an impact on your child, Doty explains. He says that after the age of three, children start to become more attuned to differences. Have open discussions in your family, demonstrate gratitude and explain ways in which you are fortunate and why others might not be as fortunate, he explains.
Be Authentic. Generosity can happen at any time and in a wide variety of measures. The little things, such as small acts of kindness and caring, should not be isolated events, Doty says. “It shouldn’t be about, it’s Thanksgiving, we’re going to the soup kitchen,” he says. Instead, “it should fundamentally be a part of your behavior every day.” When a child sees his or her parent being of service to another by simply saying hello to another or buying someone a meal, then that’s a big motivator for them to act in a similar way.
Let Them Experience the Rewards. When you share these types of acts of kindness early on, it’s much more likely that your children will also incorporate this kind of compassion as they develop. They will feel the positive benefits of helping others, and they’ll be more likely to continue to show compassion as they continue to grow, Doty explains.