I’m not going to lie, I sometimes feel like I am a walking hypocrite. One of my main desires is to raise a child with a giving heart who selflessly thinks of others. But on the other hand, I am filling said child’s toy room with more toys than a child probably needs. I don’t think I am alone in this either. We have such a strong desire to give our kids the world; out of guilt, out of love, and out of habit, that sometimes we forget the bigger picture.
My job in life is not to make sure that my son has every John Deere toy known to man. My job is to raise this little boy into a man that makes a difference in this world and leaves it a better place. While tractors are cool and all, having a vast collection of these toys is probably not going to accomplish that. So what can we do to raise a cheerful giver? Have no fear, I have come up with some ideas that our family has implemented or plans to to ensure our boys give back!
Tips for Raising a Cheerful Giver
1. Clean out that toy room-together Last year around Christmas time, I had my son go through the toy room with me to identify toys that we could donate to kids who may not have toys. This is where the lesson of sacrificial giving comes in. Nothing tends to be more important to children than their toys, and so teaching them to make sacrifices for those in need is so invaluable. While we did end up with several happy meal toys tossed into the pile, we were able to get rid of some bigger things too once we discussed the purpose of this purge.
2. Get them involved I feel like my son stops listening to my life lessons about halfway through a sentence. So what better way to get them to understand than to have them be a part of the process? At the end of the year, we tend to buy gift cards to grocery stores for our local food pantry. This year we still did that, but we also allocated some of this money to take our son to the store with us so he could help us pick out food that we could donate. We had him take things off the shelves to put in the cart and explained how these foods could benefit someone else. Another way we get him involved is in the garden. We donate our excess veggies to the food pantry in town and he helps us pick them so that he knows that the fruits of his labor are blessing someone else.
3. Allot a certain portion of allowance My son has three piggy banks (actually he has like five thanks to his Mimi-but we only use three) and each piggy bank serves a purpose. One is reserved for college funds, one for spending and one for “kids who don’t have a house or food” (those are his words.) When he gets his allowance, he gets it in three parts so that he can put equal amounts in each. These are financial lessons we are teaching him that hopefully will also stick with him throughout his life.
4. Turn birthdays/holidays into ways to give to others In most cases, the gifts from grandparents alone are enough to restock our toy room for the next five years. So why not turn holidays and birthdays into a way to give back? Instead of birthday presents, have your child request that friends bring a canned good to donate to a food pantry or clothes for a women’s shelter, whatever speaks to your heart. My son isn’t at the age where we throw parties for him other than immediate family, but when we do, we want this to always be an option.
5. Start an honest conversation about issues people face Like I said above, my son tends to stop listening halfway through conversations that I try to have with him. There are instances though when he brings things up to me and he is fully interested in finding out more information. These are the times I share with him about the struggles that others go through (which I try to bring down to a 3 year old level.) My kids are fortunate to never have gone a day without food, water or shelter, but I want them to be aware that that doesn’t mean there aren’t others out there who have that same luxury. Teaching compassion in our children young will make a difference throughout their lifetime!
What ways do you help your children learn to give back?