Often I get asked how parents can teach their kids to do good deeds starting at a young age. Here’s the thing. While you can start doing good deeds at any age, the best time to start doing kindness acts is while they are young. That is when you can truly teach them the value of doing good deeds, of helping others and giving back in a way that is authentic to their personalities and interests.
Here are a few easy ideas for getting your kids in the spirit of giving back:
- Have them go through the clothing, books, games and toys they are not using anymore which can be donated to charities, daycares, schools, libraries, hospitals and other children in need. Take them to donate the items too so they can feel a sense of satisfaction in seeing where their items end up and how they are helping others.
- Kids love birthdays. What’s more selfless than giving up some of their birthday for someone else? They can have a charitable birthday by asking for donations to a charity in lieu of birthday presents.
- They can clean up. Yes, even kids who cannot manage to get their dirty socks into the hamper can clean up the neighborhood. They can take some trash bags around your own neighborhood as well as nearby playgrounds and parks. This really does teach kids of all ages to respect their environment and not to litter. (Just be sure they aren’t picking up broken glass or anything dangerous.)
- Don’t count out the value of hosting a lemonade stand. What heartless soul is not going to stop to give an adorable child a buck or two for charity? Your kids can donate proceeds to Alex’s Lemonade Stand or to a charity of their choice. If they are old enough to bake (or if you can help) they can sell baked goods too. It’s also a great way to teach them about making money and donating money.
- If they get an allowance, make sure that they put away 20% or more which can be donated to people in need. Let them choose how they want to donate, whether that means going to a grocery store and purchasing food for a food bank with their money, purchasing toys and books for donation or giving the money directly to a cause with which they resonate. They more they resonate with a cause, the more enthusiastic they might be about making that donation.
- They can think of kindness acts around the holidays. For example, they can donate their Halloween candy. In several areas, dentists will “buy back” Halloween candy and send it to men and women in the military serving overseas. On Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, they can purchase American flags and lay them at a military cemetery or hand them out to military families.
- Utilize their talents. If your son or daughter a singer, painter, photographer or other artistic talent? Perhaps they can play the piano at a nursing home or senior center, take paintings to children at a hospital or take photographs of families who don’t have the funds to print their photos. They could also use those talents to raise money which can be donated to a cause.
- You could do a family project to raise funds or donate somehow to a cause that is important to your family. Teach your kids by walking the talk.
Guess what? Studies of the brain have shown that people who give to others have lower stress levels and a heightened state of delight and altruism. As a parent, isn’t that what we would all want for our children?
Whether giving their time, energy or money, one of the greatest things we can do as parents is to teach our kids to do good deeds for others.