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Giving is the Seed of Generosity
During the holiday season there are countless opportunities to help kids understand the concept of giving. Helping people in need is high on the list, as numerous organizations make pitches for donations. Scientific studies tell us that kids have a deeply rooted instinct to share and help others from the youngest ages.
But even though it seems that children have a natural instinct to be kind and generous, there are always exceptions to the rules and when you see behavior in a child that is less than generous, even borderline greedy, it can be very challenging. Parents often feel they have somehow failed and teachers grapple with finding a connection that will help.
One of the most obvious suggestions for helping kids be generous is to be a role model to them. Explaining why you do what you do helps a child understand the need. Conversations are important, too, so that children can ask questions and resolve issues. Actions really do speak louder than words when parents discuss giving, then go about making the donation. Children are more likely to be a giver, themselves.
Children as young as three years old understand ways they can help others and contribute to their families and communities. It’s never too early to start having conversations about generosity and giving, whether around the dinner table, in the car, or on the playground.
For kids to feel motivated to help others, they first have to recognize that their help is actually needed. This taps into a child’s strong propensity for empathy—evident in the earliest stages of life—which enables them to pick up on the emotions and needs of others. Kids are more likely to help people in need when they identify things they have in common.
For instance, the idea of ‘homelessness’ might remain an abstract concept for kids, but talking to actual homeless people and getting to know them changes them from a group of people that kids don’t really understand to real people with names and stories and families.
Giving has more meaning to a child when they can see how their generosity pays off. In one study with toddlers, it was observed how they enjoyed giving a treat (a cracker) to an animal puppet more than receiving one because they got to see the puppet enjoy their gift right in the moment.
Kids can make a more tangible connection between their actions and their positive impact when, for instance, they are taken to the grocery store to pick out some nutritious items, then they deliver those items to a food bank. This is more meaningful to a child than understanding the concept of giving money as a donation.
Research shows that when people give away something that has greater personal meaning or significance to themselves, they actually feel more committed to the cause they’re supporting and are more likely to keep supporting that cause.
Older children are encouraged to think about philanthropy not only as volunteering their time or donating their money, but also as a way to use their personal talents for the greater good.
Giving and serving doesn’t need to be a separate part of a person’s life. Philanthropy can be part of your identity, part of what you love to do most; what you’re passionate about. If you’re into the arts, find a way that you can use those talents. If you’re into sports, maybe you can organize a drive to give away sports equipment.
Kids should have a choice in giving. Forcing them to give will usually backfire. Also, it’s important to remember that there are different forms of giving: volunteering one’s time, donating money or goods, lending one’s time or talents to a cause.
Not only are some forms of giving more appropriate for different ages, but some are also more appropriate for different kids. Giving kids the freedom to choose what feels like the best fit for them will increase the odds that they’ll feel good about their generosity and continue through life to be givers, not takers.
Yorktown Education focuses on the emotional and personal side of each individual child with a specialized program of learning that is within each child’s natural stage of development. Sharing and collaboration are hallmarks of the Yorktown philosophy, teaching children early on the rewards of a generous, giving attitude.