Healthy Kids YMCA Child Care

Building Character in Children: How to Teach Generosity

A child holding a wrapped gift

When I was a kid, the holiday season was my favourite time of the year for one simple reason: presents. Like many children, I was more preoccupied with the idea of getting than I was with gratitude and giving — the two ‘Gs’ that should matter the most during the holidays.

For some children, outgrowing that me-first mindset can be difficult. But switching the focus from receiving to giving is important, since it teaches kids about being grateful, kind, and empathetic. Raising a child to have a generous heart is also beneficial, because it might be a key to their happiness. Research suggests that charitable behaviour, even in the youngest of children, can rouse feelings of joy, which sets off a positive cycle of generosity: giving incites happiness and happiness prompts further giving.

Encouraging children to be charitable in a time that seems to be all about receiving can be challenging, so here are 4 ways to help you foster the spirit of generosity in your child:

1. Model charitable giving

It’s no secret that children mimic the behaviour of their parents/guardians; therefore, getting your child to give back starts with you. Strive to practice what you preach by modeling the power of giving for them. To make your charitable acts “sink in,” make sure to have a conversation with your child about why you are donating your time and/or money to a cause.

2. Make giving real

Rather than pulling out the chequebook and making a contribution to a charity, help your child understand the need to give by getting involved. Volunteering with a not-for-profit organization is a great example of how to make giving real to children. A hands-on approach to philanthropy allows your youngster to see whom they are helping and the impact of their generosity, which may prompt them to continue giving.

3. Focus on giving year-round

With all of the charity events and fundraisers that pop up around this time of the year, it’s easy to find ways to give back to your community. However, to help children truly understand the value of thinking beyond themselves, giving should be a part of their life all year round. Donating gently used clothes and toys or performing everyday charitable acts, such as baking treats for a neighbour, are simple ways to keep the spirit of giving alive beyond the holidays.

4. Let your child take the lead

No one enjoys being forced to do something, so why pressure your child to give back? Albeit well-intended, studies have shown that coercing someone into acts of generosity can make the giver less motivated to be charitable in the future. The path to cultivating a giving spirit children involves including them in decisions about which organizations your family supports and finding ways to connect their interests with opportunities to be charitable.

Is your family planning on giving back this year? If so, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and tell us how.