Parenting Matters: Learn about giving

Teaching giving needs to begin early says Cynthia Martin.

There is a lot to learn about giving. This kind of learning is like most others; parents are key. Teaching giving needs to begin early.

One good way to get started on this lesson is by having your child help when you bake for a friend or someone she knows who is sick. She can help make the cookies or frost the cake. Make sure that you take her with you to deliver it so she can tell your friend or her friend who is sick that she helped make whatever you bring. Just hearing how delighted people are when they receive a gift like this helps her learn about giving. This doesn’t mean you can’t keep some of whatever you bake but the reason you are baking is to give some away.

Let your child see you making contributions. Talk with her about what you are doing and why. Let her know how important contributions are. Maybe she wants to add her part by giving part of her allowance to charity. Maybe your choice is one charity but she is into giving to help animals and may want to give her share to the humane society. Encourage whichever way she wants to do it. Her choice makes the lesson even more powerful.

Teach her that there are different kinds of giving. Show her how she could make up a gift for “One Free Car Wash” or even “15 Minutes of Weeding” for someone in the family for a birthday or Father’s Day. Giving doesn’t always mean money. Let her see what you donate your time to. Maybe she wants to volunteer somewhere also. Help her find her place and then she will feel her donation is important.

Let her see you giving things to the food bank or Goodwill. Take toothpaste or shampoo to a homeless shelter. Let her see you helping an elderly friend mow her lawn this time of year. It may be faster to write a check to charity but it doesn’t have the same impact on your child as delivering to a food bank or homeless shelter.

Start a tradition

It can be helpful to talk together as a family about what you are thankful for. This helps your child recognize that she may have special things in her life that not all other children have.

Other families have begun traditions in which all holidays include one gift to someone less fortunate. Sometimes it can be as easy as writing a letter to a soldier, a distant relative or a friend in the hospital. Other families set aside a giving box that anyone in the family can add small amounts of money to a cause the family agrees to support.

One other part of giving frequently is overlooked. When you say something nice to someone, you are giving them something special. If you tell someone how nice they look, by giving them this compliment you have added to their day. Even by thanking someone for something they have done for you is a gift. The mere words you use are a way of giving something special to another person. It is one more way you give a gift without money but just by being nice. That is a gift you want your child to learn how to give.

One of the nicest parts about teaching your child to learn to give to others is that it teaches you, too. Just focusing on giving helps you as well as your child recognize the need and to feel good about the results.

The more you teach about giving the more likely your child will want to give. One person said that, “Giving gives children a sense of self-esteem and pride. Giving is addictive. It gets in your blood. It makes you realize that you and your actions matter.”



Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. Reach Martin at or at 681-2250.