By Gwen Rockwood
Giving Kids the Habit of Giving
This scenario has probably happened to every parent at least a dozen times. You’re paying a bill somewhere—maybe a fast-food restaurant or a retail store—and the clerk asks if you’d like to donate a dollar or more to a certain charity.
To donate or not to donate? That is the question. There are times when I’d like the answer to be “no,” simply because I’m saving for an end-of-year donation to a specific charity my husband and I have already discussed. But when my kids are with me—watching me answer the question—the answer is always “Yes, I’ll donate.”
Let them see you give
The reason is simple. I want our kids to grow up with the instinct to give—to help those in need. And if they never see my husband and I give, they will instinctively follow that non-giving example as they get older.
Simply talking about the importance of giving isn’t nearly as effective as giving regularly and having our kids see it happen. Rachel Cruze, co-author of the book “Smart Money Smart Kids,” says that even though she loves the convenience of online giving, it often hinders a parent’s ability to let their kids see giving in action. “Many parents miss this opportunity not because they aren’t giving, but because they aren’t being intentional about letting their kids see them give. …Let your kids watch you write out the check, and use the opportunity to reinforce why you give.”
Let them see why giving is important and needed
Cruze’s father, co-author and well-known financial guru Dave Ramsey, said that he and his wife Sharon regularly looked for “bubble bursting moments” during the years they were raising their three kids – those moments when kids find out that not everyone lives as comfortably as they do.
Ramsey writes that one year during the holidays the family volunteered to deliver the “Angel Tree” gifts bought for less fortunate kids so that his own kids could see the children who would have had a bleak Christmas, had it not been for the generosity of others who were generous with their money. He said the experience was “mind blowing” for his kids.
Let them give their own money
For many kids their first experience of giving happens at a church service when the offering plate is passed or when a Sunday school class collects donations. Parents often put a few dollars into their kid’s hand so he or she can have the experience of “giving,” but Cruze and Ramsey warn that this type of giving doesn’t mean as much to kids if it’s not money they earned.
“When that happens, the child isn’t really giving anything—he’s just a little deliveryman for the parents’ money. There’s no emotional connection between working for the money and choosing to give it away,” Cruze writes. “The fact that Mom and Dad made me work for the money I put in the offering bag gave me the opportunity to learn how to truly give, and it made it so much easier for me to keep giving as I got older and my income increased.”
Cruze and Ramsey recommend that parents teach kids to save a portion of their allowance (or the “paychecks” they receive for doing chores). They suggest designating 10 percent of the allowance be set aside as a “giving fund.” The child who earns the money should be in charge of selecting the charity to which the money will go, or the child can use the money to buy necessities or gifts for people in need.