Each week, my husband and I give our 12 year old son $10 for his allowance. In return, he does two chores a day during the weekday, and a few more per day on the weekend when we try to get our house completely clean.
Since he was young, we’ve been teaching him to put 10% away for giving, 10% for investing, 20% for saving, and the rest for spending. However, recently, he’s created his own formula—25% for giving, 25% for investing, 25% for saving, and 25% for spending.
I’ll be honest. At first, his new system drove me a little batty. See, in the next few months, we’re getting ready to increase his allowance because we want to give him more responsibility. We want him to buy his own clothes out of his allowance and also use the money for his own spending because we want to teach him money management at a young age. If he gives away such a large percentage of his allowance, he may not have money to do all of the “responsible” things we want him to do with his money.
Then, I took a deep breath and realized he’s being an excellent steward of his money. Without any prompting from me, he’s being so generous. Every week, when he gets his allowance, he picks a charity to give his $2.50 to. He’s chosen a variety of charities, from religious societies, to local families in need, to NPR during their pledge drive.
He’s using his money to make a difference.
If that means he has to buy his clothes at thrift stores, so be it. He’s learning to manage his money on his terms.
How to Raise a Charitable Child
The desire to give is likely an intrinsic one specific to the individual child. Not all children are going to have a natural tendency to give. Still, there are things that parents can do to help encourage giving.
Be an example
Since my son was little, my husband and I have picked a family at Christmas time to give to. One year we bought boots for a little girl; another year we bought a game for a boy. Each time we picked a family to give to and bought our gift, our son went with us and was involved in picking the present for the child.
Talk about how donations help
Many children may not realize or appreciate how important donations are. Talk about children who may not get gifts at Christmas but do because people donate. Talk about how donations help people when natural disasters strike. Talk about how donating to a women’s shelter or a charity for moms and children may help a woman who has decided to have her baby instead of having an abortion.
According to a recent study lead by Indiana University and the U.N. Foundation, “discussing with kids the value of philanthropy boosted by 20 percent the likelihood that they would donate their own money” (NPR).
Don’t try to stifle their generosity
I quickly realized I should not stifle my son’s generosity. Who knows? He may not always be so generous. At this time in his life, he’s very generous, and I want to encourage that behavior. I want to help him understand the good that he’s doing by giving to others.
Encourage reading that displays generosity
My son reads many books. Lately he’s been reading saint and missionary stories. Of course, the Bible is also a good place to look for these stories. Learning about people who have a generous, giving spirit helps him become more generous. He wants to emulate the behavior of those who give regularly.
Your child may naturally be more resistant to giving, but with these steps, you can set a positive example that your children will hopefully follow.
How do you encourage your children to become generous? What strategies and tips do you recommend?
I think your idea of “being and example” is the best way to get kids involved and interested in being charitable. Most kids I have met seem to be naturally charitable if their parents are the least bit.
Jacob Merkley says
I have a 9 month old, so this article resonated with me. My wife and I have talked about the future when our girl gets older at ways to encourage good behavior like this. We are going to have to talk again, now that I have read this article…since these are all good ideas. Now its all about putting those principles into practice. Thanks!
being an example is the best way and letting them try different things. kudos to you as you sound like you’re setting your child on the right track to succeed in this area. I blog on personal finance and try to emphasize the importance of giving every so often in my posts!