“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” – Mother Theresa
There are many quotations by high-profile people, including those like Mother Theresa, who have committed their lives to charitable giving, that provide the raison d’etre for philanthropic acts and charitable giving.
Not only is donating to charities, like a Jewish charity, part of being human, it also forms the foundation of many religions.
Yvonne M. Brake and Yvette McMillan describe the religious basis for charitable giving in their article, published on the website, learningtogive.org.
“The beliefs of many religious faiths encourage charitable giving by its members…The reasoning and origin of this encouragement vary from one group to another, though similarities in the basis for charitable giving emerge.”
For instance, Christians use the term “stewardship” when talking about financial giving, and Jews use “tzedakah” when discussing acts of charity, including charitable giving.
Thus, the principle and importance of philanthropy as adults cannot be argued. But what about children? Should they be taught the importance of charity while still young?
The succinct answer to this question is that yes, it is essential to teach your children the importance and quintessential nature of being charitable. It is a life lesson as critical as teaching kindness, tolerance, and patience.
By way of answering this question, let’s consider some of the reasons why it is essential to teach all children, including very young children, the need for charity and generosity.
1. Empathy, volunteering, and charitable giving are critical life skills
Madison DuPaix, in her article titled “Tips for Teaching Kids about Charity,” highlights the fact that it is never too early to teach kids the life skills of empathy, volunteering, and charitable giving.
She also emphasizes a very important point: You are your child’s best example.
In other words, children learn these skills by example, not any other way. Thus, if you as a parent are not empathetic and charitable in your behavior, there is very little chance of teaching your children these lessons.
Mary Gordon, the founder of Roots of Empathy explains that “empathy is caught, not taught.”
Gordon goes onto explain the reason for teaching empathy.
“Teaching children emotional literacy and developing their capacity to take the perspective of others are key steps towards collaboration and civility; they are indispensable steps towards preventing aggressive and bullying behaviors. As children develop empathy, it seems to come ready-made with courage and imagination. Children understand marginalization and issues of social justice in a clear and uncluttered way.”
2. Live a reality-based life
It is normal for parents to want to shield their children from the harsh side of life and not expose them to the world’s multitudes of suffering. However, it is equally important to expose children to the harsh reality of living in the modern world in an age-appropriate manner. The flipside of this coin is that children of all ages, including very young children, grow up exposed to the raw images of the aftermath of natural disasters and become hardened or immune to the needs of others.
Again, the best way to mitigate this scenario is only to expose children to age-appropriate images and information, emphasizing and highlighting the need to help those needing help.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added an extra layer of complexity to life. The world’s countries and regions are in varying states of lockdown, making it difficult for people to volunteer at charities like the local soup kitchen.
The accompanying global financial crisis has also led to a decrease in the general availability of extra cash in most households. However, children can still respond to the desperate needs caused by the pandemic by donating a small portion of their allowance or pocket money to charity.
As the quotation highlighted above by Mother Theresa notes, the amount of money we give is not essential; it is the love with which we give the little that we have.
One of the ways to achieve this aim is for the family to adopt a charity and to prioritize donating items such as money as well as non-perishable foods, clothing, and toys. It is wise to donate clothing that the children have either grown out of or no longer wear and the toys they no longer play with.
It is vital to allow your kids to choose which toys they want to give away and which clothes they would like to donate. It does not matter whether the items of clothing are too small for the kids and they haven’t played with the toys for a long time.
Finally, it is equally important for children to see their parents donating their clothing and other items to charity at the same time. Otherwise, they will not necessarily learn the importance of family and charity within the family or as an extension of the family.