We all have probably heard the principle that it is better to give than to receive, but how do we teach our children to treat others kindly, give generously, and serve willingly?
What are our kids mirroring?
Children are often like little mirrors, reflecting our attitudes and actions. They are watching us more than we care to admit!
What do we adults do with an opportunity to bless others?
It can be as simple as letting someone go ahead of us in line, sending a note to Any Soldier, or taking bread to a shut-in neighbor. Or it could involve a greater commitment of time—such as volunteering on a regular basis—or an investment of funds, such as paying for someone’s groceries or sponsoring a child.
When our children were young, we taught them to bring a cup of hot cocoa to the garbage collectors in the winter, and a cold drink in the summer. They looked forward to putting together shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, even the year that our family was jobless and our tight budget meant that they themselves would receive no gifts. We encouraged our middle and high schoolers to say hello to the new person at the homeschool skating event, to go the extra mile for someone who was being less than kind, and to give to those in need.
I am thankful that our children have grown up to be very giving, compassionate people who love God and others, and who take (and make) opportunities to bless others. And they are teaching this purposefully to their own children.
Why purposefully? Even when you incorporate giving and kindness into your everyday life, your kids may not always “get” things by osmosis. If you’d like to more intentionally involve them as you model an attitude of giving, here are a few fun ideas:
- “A Letter for the Postman”—In Deborah Alter-Rasche’s fun and creative idea for surprising your mail carrier, children enjoy the blessing of giving and growing in character, while practicing language arts and fine arts! While this blog post is geared to preschoolers, any age can participate. And don’t miss the links to more ideas at the end.
- “Teaching Children to Think of Others”—Author Chelsea Smith writes, “Of course there are a million acts of kindness we can do daily . . . and none have to be complicated or expensive. We can simply smile at others, take a meal to a family in distress, or send a message of appreciation to someone who has touched our lives in some way” She shares about a project her children did, then links to additional posts.
- Cookies for the neighbors can be a great ice-breaker and a ministry tool. For a kid-friendly recipe, check out this recipe for fun–and cookies!
- Pennies of Time is a “place to exchange ideas on how to use small experiences to teach young children to serve. All it takes is a penny of time.” And to learn more about the website’s inspiration, read the story of the real Penny.
- Mealtime Make-and-Take — One military wife knew of many women having babies while their husbands were deployed, so she gathered a group of teens to make dinners and take them to the families. This was a win-win because she taught the teens some cooking skills, they got some “friend time” under the tutelage of this mentor-mom, and the new mamas got yummy suppers. (This idea could be used for anyone who might appreciate a meal.)
- “How Do I Start with My Family”—This mom recommends you keep it short and have fun!
- Random Acts of Kindness—More than 300 “kindness” ideas
- Community “Sharing” Library — A local family turned an old mailbox into a sharing library. If you don’t have an old mailbox, here’s one made especially for this purpose. And books aren’t the only items that can be shared–food pantry items, mittens or scarves in winter–check these ideas from the Blessing Box Mission.
- “Easy Ways to Serve During the Holiday” by Chelsea Smith
- Sole Hope shoe party is an opportunity for families and for students in middle school or above. If they can cut fabric with scissors, they can give hope and healing to a child with no shoes.
- 52 Acts of Kindness—Ideas for 52 acts of kindness that are not related to any specific holidays. The author also offers an inexpensive e-book scrapbook for your family to keep.
- Seek volunteer opportunities in your community and encourage your children to share their talents and skills with others. Whether tutoring a struggling math student or raking a neighbor’s lawn, your child will learn about placing the needs of others ahead of his or her own.
- “Raising Kids Who Help at Home” —Raising children purposefully to serve others at home.
- More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity by Jeff Shinabarger. At a conference I attended, Jeff’s message encouraged me to look for ways to generously bless others.
- In “Gimme, Gimme v. Doing Good: Teaching Kids to Give,” author Cynthia Ewer reminds us to, “Give in secret, and tell your children why: it is no gift when we expect gratitude, appreciation, or attach strings to our offerings. We give, instead, to relieve need; to share the abundance with which we’ve been blessed; and to reflect to others the good that we find in the world. Giving with grace is reward enough!”
Adapted from a newsletter by this author, previously published at www.HSLDA.org, August 2017