Teaching Children to Give
by Cathy Faulcon Bowen, Ph.D.
Habits and lessons we learn as children and teens are likely to be those lessons we incorporate in daily living as young and older adults. Whether the lesson is saying "please" and "thank you" when appropriate, practicing personal hygiene, or handling money, the lessons from our developing years are likely to be remembered and passed on.
Spend, save, and share, are three common themes often promoted in financial education circles, especially for those who are working with young children. Yet the "sharing theme" is seldom addressed as heavily as the spending and saving themes among older youth. This article focuses on sharing or giving to others as a component of money management among older teens.
As teachers you have opportunities to educate students about giving whether it is donating their time or money to school or community projects. For some, giving is a seasonal theme that only surfaces during the winter holidays and then fades into the background for another 10 months. However, there are opportunities to incorporate giving into the classroom beyond the holiday season. Simply expand the usual giving projects throughout the school year.
A family needing support could be adopted at the beginning of the year and several giving projects could be created to support the family. For example, students could be encouraged to put "loose change" in a container. At the end of each week or month, the change could be counted and recorded on a spreadsheet or posted on a visible thermometer in the room; similar to the technique used by United Ways to keep communities informed on local giving. The budding bankers in the class would love to have this weekly job. Depending on the amount collected each month, a direct gift of funds could be given to the family. Alternatively, a group of students could be sent on monthly shopping trips to purchase food for the family. If a family is not selected for the yearly project, food purchased with "loose change" could be given to a local food bank. Students could be encouraged to think of alternative ways to raise funds for the "loose change" container or to give in other ways.
Some suggestions are below:
- Rent a class. Groups of students could volunteer to rake leaves or do other outdoor chores for elderly residents and accept donations for the "loose change" container.
- Coins found on sidewalks or other locations could be put in the "loose change" container.
- Each student could be encouraged to forgo a snack or treat once a week or month and add the saved money to the "loose change" container.
- On their birthdays, adopted family members could receive cards designed and created by students. Creative students would love to lead this project.
- Students with other specials skills could be encouraged to use those skills to support the family. For example, woodworkers could create a useful gift to donate to the family. Artist could paint a picture for decoration in the home.
- At the end of the semester or year, the class reporter could write up a summary of the class activities for the school newsletter or paper or give a presentation to another school audience on the class giving efforts.
By the end of the semester or year, the students would have had several small lessons or experiences related to giving that could last a lifetime.
For more ideas on how you can plant the giving seed in the next generation, search the internet with the terms: "giving" or "service learning". Organizations that focus on giving could be other sources of inspiration include www.character.org and www.learningtogive.org. Finally there are books for teens and children that have "giving" as a theme. These books can be easily located with a web search.