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Teaching a Child to Give


I have been saying for a while now that I wanted to write a post on "teaching a child to give." Here's the deal: I want my daughter to be a kind, loving, and giving person...even though I realize that I need waaay more work in that area myself. My desires for her, however, mean that I need to be an example.

I have been trying to make an effort in this area with her, as she's little, and hoping that we can both grow in our giving as she grows.

For right now, I give her coins to drop into the offering plate at church.

She has an eagle eye for spotting someone who is "cwying," and I try to point out that someone -- a mommy, a daddy, whoever -- is helping that little person.

We can't give a lot to food shelf donations right now -- but we can give more since I've started shopping through the suggestions at Money Saving Mom. In order to stock those things into the grocery bags at church to be donated, I let Nora put each individual item in (because 21-month-old toddlers love doing things like this) and explain, in the simplified version, that "some people don't have any food, so we're helping them."

She also accompanied me on a neighborhood food drive last fall (I carried her around as I knocked on doors and asked people to set out bags of food on a day that my women's group would pick them up for the foodshelf.) The explanation then was similar: "Some people don't have any food, or diapers, so we're helping them." (I was trying to bring things to her level.)

I'm on the lookout for things we can do together that will be part of this giving philosophy. That's one reason she accompanied me to a project this winter where we tied fleece blankets for Project Linus. She didn't actually help a lot with the actual work (unless you count playing with the fabric trimmings), but she heard that we were making blankets for kids, and she saw role models in the Girl Scouts who were helping out with the project -- and she and the other one-year-old in attendance entertained each other by chasing each other around.

Because this is important to me, I'm also a subscriber to the newsletter of Doing Good Together, an organization dedicated to the concept of family volunteering. Each month's newsletter has an inspiring story of a family doing some sort of volunteer work together, and the web site's "Resources" page has fabulous listings of books, web sites and more for all ages (preschooler to adult) on a wide range of topics: "caring and kindness; volunteering; seniors and aging; poverty, hunger and homelessness" and more. The "projects" page has good ideas, too.

Unfortunately, we have not yet done any of them. I need to get myself a bit more motivated and on the ball in this area...or get some suggestions from others, which would be welcomed. I wonder, for example, if my one-year-old's scribbles on a card would really be appreciated by an "anonymous to us" recipient? I signed up for volunteering to deliver library materials to the homebound, because I could take my daughter with me - but the library has never followed up, in part I think because they now have a bookmobile. The opportunity to help pass out hymnals at a local nursing home's worship service came up - but the worship service took place smack-dab in the middle of nap time.

Some of these things to teach her to give are evidently things that would be more appropriate as my child grows older...but I do want to get her the foundations of a giving heart now.

(I know, for instance, that the idea of The Candy Bank from Unplug Your Kids, in which the kids "save up" their candy/little junky toys in a pickle jar and then turn in their "deposits" for a parental cash donation to charity, is probably a good idea for when she is a little older -- but it may not work so well for someone who is just approaching her second birthday.

I know that some things I remember from role models in my own childhood -- like my mom's women's group weeding the rosebushes in the community plot in the center of town, or providing carseats for low-income people back when carseat laws were first coming into force, or my grandfather selling lightbulbs and brooms for the Lion's Club so they could make donations to charity -- have stuck with me through the years, and influenced my desire to be involved in service organizations, giving, and charitable service in my own life. I want the same for my daughter.

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