“Mami, I want to give gifts to kids that don’t have any gifts,” said my 6-year-old daughter in a very serious and, most importantly, convinced tone this week. She’s babbled these words out before, but this is the first time I can see she actually means them. It’s like she finally grasped the concept that Christmas is about giving and not just about unwrapping your own mountain of toys.
I was starting to feel guilty because I felt that me telling her over and over again that giving is better than receiving and taking toys to toy drives and fundraisers was just not enough for her to truly understand the bigger and universal law of giving. Not only is she a blogger’s child that is used to boxes of goodies arriving at her doorstep at any given moment, as well as enjoying trips to magical places, she’s also an only child — and a Leo at that! — that has to work harder at understanding that not everything revolves around her.
So I nag, but I also try to be a role model and involve her in giving — like when I let her choose which girl we’d sponsor in El Salvador through Save the Children. Not only do we sponsor Brenda (6), but we also made a point to visit her rural town to meet her during our trip to see family in El Salvador earlier this year. The meeting was amazing, and I’m sure it has impacted her being where it counts, but her day-to-day continues to be more about “me, me!” than about others.
My friends at Heart of Haiti recently sent me the most beautiful e-book called Growing Up Giving that is based off a recent UN Foundation study that discovered, “Talking to children about charity has a greater impact on their giving than role modeling alone.”
That quote alone gave me a huge “Ahá!” moment. Instilling a lifetime consciousness about giving takes time, commitment, and a lot of talking to children about it — much like what it takes to raise a bilingual child! And then it hit me that my daughter has been hearing a lot from me and her teachers right now about how important it is to give that maybe, just maybe, she finally understood … as much as a six-year-old can. At least she’s gone from hoarding all her unused toys and stuffed animals, to offering to pack them up for kids that need them more.
After reading all the stories and tips in the Growing Up Giving ebook, I’ve created a new plan of action to make giving a proactive activity in our family: something we both talk about and do.
1. Find something we’re passionate about. My girl is only 6 and it’s hard to keep her focused on anything. So the key is to find ways to give that will be fun for her so she’ll want to focus and talk about it.
2. Baby steps matter. Maybe it’s just about having her collect all the lose change around the house or giving her the change at the store so she can start her own saving towards a charity she chooses. Even something as simple as choosing a picture and a charity to donate to by sharing via Johnson & Johnson’s Donate a Photo app. What matters is to make giving a conversation topic and think of new and creative ways to give.
3. Make an activity out of it. Just like we loved visiting the child we sponsor through Save the Children and it made the impact real for her, find a way to support or donate time where they can get actively involved in it.
4. Practice random acts of kindness. Find ways to make it fun to give randomly. Maybe it’s as simple as putting coins in expired meters, or taking a blanket to a homeless person, but get your child involved in being spontaneous when giving and to not hold herself back when an act of caring wants to manifest itself.
There are lots more ideas and stories of inspiration in “Growing Up Giving” and it’s absolutely free. Now that’s a gift that gives!