By Anna Perlini
My son Jonathan was born in a small Indian village, during the time my husband and I were serving there as volunteers. Like many Indian kids, he grew up eating rice, dahl, chapatis, and the incredible, colorful variety of tropical fruit available at every street corner.
Although he wasn’t yet five when we moved back to Europe, it took him a while to get adjusted to the new environment and particularly the new foods. At first, he looked very suspiciously at and dissected every bit of pasta on his plate. He had always been a slow eater, but he surely took his time to embrace Italian cuisine! Eventually, his memories of India and Indian food did fade. In those days, globalization hadn’t quite kicked in yet, and the only produce available in Italian supermarkets was seasonal Italian produce.
However, passing by a newly opened delicacies store one day, I spotted a mango! It was quite expensive, but Jonathan’s 11th birthday was just around the corner, and I thought it would be such a great treat for him to get to savor one of his favorite early childhood fruits.
I bought and packaged the mango, and invited my preteen son for a walk. Then we stopped on a bench and I solemnly presented my gift, telling him it would bring back memories from the past. Jonathan slowly opened the package and held the colorful mango in his hands for what seemed like a long time. No reaction.
“Mom, I really can’t remember. Sorry.”
I felt a bit disappointed. “Well, you should still try it. I promise you, you loved them when you were small.” With the same suspicious look he’d given his first Italian dishes years before, Jonathan took a small bite. Then another one, then more. Still, no reaction. Then … the seed appeared, and Jonathan’s eyes lit up.
“Mom, now I remember! I do! I remember how fun it was sucking on the seed!” And along with that memory, many more started rushing through this thinker of a boy. We talked and talked, reminiscing on other events and memories from the past.
From this episode with my son, I remember thinking how important it is to hold on just a bit longer when things don’t seem to click or make sense. As a mother, it was another confirmation that whatever we sow in our children’s youngest years will never be forgotten. It might seem like it is at times … but wait till they get to the seed!
Courtesy of Activated magazine; used by permission. Photo by Free Images via Freepik.com
Adapted excerpts from Parents Magazine
Many parents think that it’s premature to teach values to a toddler or preschooler. But that’s a misconception. Here are five values that all children should develop by their fifth birthday, and some easy ways to make them stick.
Value #1: Honesty
Help kids find a way to tell the truth
The best way to encourage truthfulness is to be truthful yourself. Consider this story: Carol decided to limit the number of play dates between her 3-year-old son, Chris, and his friend Paul. The boys had been fighting a lot recently, and Carol thought they should spend some time apart. So when Paul’s mother called one afternoon to arrange a get-together, Carol told her that Chris was sick.
Overhearing this, her son asked, “Am I sick, Mommy? What’s wrong with me?” Carol, taken aback by her son’s frightened look, told him she had only said he was sick because she didn’t want to hurt Paul’s mother’s feelings. Carol then launched into a complicated explanation of the distinctions between the various types of lies, and Chris was confused. All he understood was that fibbing is sometimes okay—and that, in fact, it’s what people do.
Your child takes his cues from you, so it’s important that you try to avoid any kind of deception, even a seemingly innocent one. Carol would have been better off saying, “This isn’t a good day for a play date. I’m concerned that the boys were fighting so much last week. I think they need a break.”
Even if being honest isn’t always easy or comfortable, you—and other people—will always feel better if you tell the truth.
Value #2: Justice
Insist that children make amends
At a recent family gathering, Amy and Marcus, 4-year-old cousins, were making castles out of wooden blocks. Suddenly, Amy knocked over Marcus’s castle, and he started to cry. Witnessing the scene, Amy’s father chided his daughter and ordered her to apologize. Amy dutifully said, “I’m sorry.”
Then her dad took her aside and asked, “Do you know why you pushed over his blocks?” She told him that she was mad because Marcus’s castle was bigger than hers. The dad told her that though this was no excuse for destroying her cousin’s castle, he could understand her feelings. He then sent her back to play.
The father’s reaction was similar to that of many psychologically savvy parents: He wanted his daughter to identify and express her feelings and to understand why she behaved as she did. That’s okay, but it isn’t enough.
Saying “I’m sorry” is pretty easy for a child, and it lets her off the hook without forcing her to think. Having a child make amends in a proactive way conveys a much stronger message. If you’re aware that your child has acted badly toward someone, help him think of a way to compensate. Maybe he can give one of his trucks to a playmate whose toy he has damaged. Perhaps he could draw a picture for his sister after teasing her all day. In Amy’s case, she could have been encouraged to help Marcus rebuild his castle. By encouraging your child to make such gestures, you emphasize the importance of treating people fairly—an essential value that will one day help her negotiate the complicated world of peer-group relationships.
Value #3: Consideration
Teach them to think about others’ feelings
Anne was frustrated because her daughters, ages 3 and 4, ended up whining and
fighting every time she took them grocery shopping. “I finally told them that we needed to figure out how to do our shopping without everyone, including me, feeling upset,” Anne says.
The mom asked the girls for suggestions on how to make the trip to the grocery store a better experience for all. The 4-year-old suggested that they bring snacks from home so they wouldn’t nag for cookies. The 3-year-old said she would sing quietly to herself so she would feel happy.
The girls remembered their promises, and the next trip to the supermarket went much more smoothly. Leaving the store, the younger girl asked, “Do you feel really upset now, Mommy?” The mother assured her that she felt just fine and remarked how nice it was that nobody got into an argument.
Do these small problem-solving exercises actually help a child learn the value of consideration? You bet. Over time, even a young child sees that words or actions can make another person smile or feel better, and that when she’s kind to someone else, that person is nice to her. This feedback encourages other genuine acts of consideration.
Value #4: Determination
Encourage them to take on a challenge
Determination is a value that you can encourage from a very young age. A powerful way to help kids develop determination is to encourage them to do things that don’t come easily—and to praise them for their initiative. If your son is shy, for instance, quietly encourage him to approach kids on the playground, even if it makes him feel nervous and scared. If your daughter gets angry quickly, teach her strategies (such as counting to ten or taking a deep breath) for holding back a temper tantrum. Congratulate kids when they manage to do things that are difficult for them. The child who hears “Good for you, I know that was really tough!” is bolstered by the recognition and becomes even more determined to keep trying.
Value #5: Love
Be generous with your affection
Parents tend to think that children are naturally loving and generous with their affection. This is true, but for loving sentiments to last, they need to be reciprocated. It’s chilling to realize that over the course of a typical busy day, the phrase “I love you” is probably the one that a child is least likely to hear.
Let your child see you demonstrate your love and affection for the people in your life. Kiss and hug your spouse when the kids are around. Talk to your children about how much you love and appreciate their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
And, of course, don’t let a day pass without expressing your affection for your child himself. Show your love in unexpected ways: Pack a note in his lunch box. Tape a heart to the bathroom mirror so he’ll see it when he brushes his teeth. Give her a hug—for no reason. Don’t allow frantic morning drop-offs or hectic afternoon routines squeeze loving gestures out of your day.
I can practically guarantee you that the more you say “I love you” to your child, the more your child will say “I love you” back. The more hugs and kisses you give, the more your home will be filled with love and affection.—And when our children feel free to express their love to us, we instill in them perhaps the greatest value of all.
Courtesy of Motivated! magazine. Used with permission. Photo by Yogesh Kumar Jaiswal via Flickr.
By Kelly Palmatier, CompassionateKids.com, adapted
Volunteering with children is a great way to help them learn about giving back. Children learn valuable skills, such as communication, organization, and team working, while “on the job”. One benefit of volunteering is that children learn about the concerns of the organization they work with, and what need it fills in the community. Consequently, the
children also have an opportunity to remember what to be thankful for.
It’s important to work side-by-side with your child, since leading by example has been shown to be the most effective form of teaching. Children who see their parents volunteering are much more likely to believe in the value of working to help others.
Working side-by-side with your child has many benefits. It is the most effective way to teach your child the value of helping others, ensures that the child’s presence is a help,
not a hindrance to the organization’s staff and other volunteers, and while focused on a task together, may foster deep conversations that may not have occurred otherwise.
When choosing a volunteer opportunity, it is important to consider the following:
1. Your child’s interests: If your child is clearly interested in a subject, it may be possible to use that interest as a springboard into volunteering: Children who construct a lot of forts or buildings with blocks may enjoy helping out with a safe, simple renovation project. Children who love animals may enjoy helping animal organizations. Children who enjoy clothes and toys can start a clothing and toy drive for poor kids. Children who like baking can provide cookies to a poor orphanage or a home for the elderly.
2. Your interests: It is also important to consider your own interests as your child will emulate your passion and enthusiasm.
3. Your child’s abilities: If your child is very young, it can be challenging to choose a volunteer opportunity that he/she can actually help with. There are opportunities available that even very young children can do with a little parental guidance, such as helping to bag or box items for those in need, or giving flowers, cookies, or hugs to the elderly.
4. Your abilities: Your child will benefit from seeing you work well in your element. For
example, if you are especially skilled at home renovations, you may find a community restoration project to work on. This would allow you to share your skills while demonstrating the relevance volunteering has in regards to different careers and interests.
5. Location, frequency, and duration: Consider the basic logistics of any volunteer
opportunity. If the opportunity is close by, a commitment to help on a weekly basis may be fine. If it’s farther away, consider helping on a monthly basis. Your child is learning work ethics from this experience, so ensure you arrive on time, and only cancel or reschedule when you truly have valid reasons and can give plenty of notice. The duration of each volunteer session can vary according to the age of the children. Older children may be fine with a few hours or more, but younger children may need sessions to be short, even forty-five minutes.
6. Staff attitude: Most people will appreciate your instilling a volunteer ethic in children at a young age, but some will focus more on the noise level or other potential distractions. It is important to consider the effect others’ attitudes have on your child. If a child feels like a hindrance, volunteering could end up like a chore rather than a joy. The effort put into organizing volunteer opportunities for your children can provide a lifetime of benefit for both the kids involved and for society.
Resources for finding volunteer opportunities
Article courtesy of Motivated magazine. Used with permission. Photo by David Katarina via Flickr.
By Tiffany Roget, eHow Contributor
1. Story time
One quick and easy way to convey the importance of perseverance to children is to read stories that teach this quality. Request that children act out the characters, performing their physical actions, as you read the story aloud. Drive home the idea you are trying to convey by having coloring pages accompany each story, or activity worksheets on hand for the children to complete after story time ends. A few examples of applicable books include “The Tortoise and the Hare” and “The Little Engine That Could”.
2. Collage action
Engage children of any age with an art project that enables them to express their feelings about perseverance in a creative way. Give each child one piece of colored
art paper, and instruct them to draw a line down the center of the page. Label the top of the left column with “Persevering Rocks!” and the right column with “Not
Persevering!” Offer the children a variety of magazines to choose from and instruct
them to search the pages for interesting images that reflect these two ideas. Glue
images to the applicable side of the paper, allowing for overlapping if desired for
additional visual artistic expression. Ask the children to write a couple sentences on the back of their collage that reflects a time they personally persevered, and applaud them for their actions.
3. Host puppet shows
Kids love puppets and as a result enjoy receiving information from these friendly
characters in a non-threatening manner. Take advantage of this situation by hosting
puppet shows and have the children take turns acting out the plays. Offer up scripts
that reflect a young person facing challenging circumstances, choices, or obstacles, and cover how they persevere through the difficult situation. You might consider finding stories and quotes that offer inspiring messages regarding learning how to persevere and integrate these stories and characters into your plays.
4. Play games
Many games offer the opportunity to help children learn about the art of perseverance, and practice skills to acquire it. Croquet is one game where players are required to hit a ball with a mallet through small metal arches stuck into the ground. Like golf, the less strokes it takes you to get a ball through an arch, the better your chances to win the game. The first person to pass through all the arches and successfully tap the end post wins. This game takes concentration, patience, and an ability to be able to calmly plan your next move. Children often don’t realize that while they are playing they are simultaneously practicing how to persevere every time their ball doesn’t go where they intended it to.
Help children learn the importance and benefits of persevering and simultaneously enable them to work on establishing self-discipline. Both of these qualities enable young people to develop self-confidence and grow into capable teens and adults who can adequately make healthy, personal decisions. Set small goals for kids to accomplish and praise them when they meet their intended result. A homebased chart, where they receive gold stars for accomplished goals, keeps wandering minds motivated.
Courtesy of Motivated! magazine. Used with permission. Image via Kendall Lister via Flickr.
Discuss how when we say things in anger, we can hurt others by our unkind and thoughtless words. This is why the Bible says, “The tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire” (James 3:5 NLT). Talk about how even small words can set off big emotions, how an unkind word can cause someone to cry, and how a kind and gentle word can make someone’s day.
Watch “Stay Sweet.” This video features ideas of what to do when faced with a situation where it could be easy to lose one’s temper.
Memorize the verse “A gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1 NIV). You can help your children write this verse in their notebooks or somewhere easily visible throughout the day.
Read “Love Focuses on the Good.” Do the action on the last page of this article.
Watch “I Get Along with My Brother.” Brainstorm ways to resolve common conflicts that arise with your child. It may be good to discuss how when you are feeling angry or upset, that probably isn’t the best time to try to talk to the friend or peer causing the upset. Waiting till one is calmer, or talking about one’s feelings with a parent or teacher can also help to set things right.
Read “How Do We Love Others?” Do the action on the last page of this article.
Adapted from My Wonder Studio
Updated September 2014!
For a wide range of videos to provide fun learning times for your children, click on the following links:
Kiddie Viddie videos feature children and teenagers performing original songs that teach practical and character-building lessons in a fun, fast-moving way that kids around the world relate to and enjoy. These videos have received widespread acclaim from parents and educators alike, and some titles are now available in 24 languages. These videos are ideal for babies, toddlers and preschoolers and you can watch them free here or purchase a DVD copy at the official Aurora store (DVD includes songs in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French, along with bonus picture facts for little ones)
Treasure Attic® is an educational entertainment series for children ages 2 and up. Each 30-minute episode of this children’s video series features its personable host Uncle Jim, his lovable sheepdog Peepers, and the energetic word-defining Bunny Bigword. Together they convey meaningful and lively lessons through songs and fun adventures. Focus skills include: health habits, safety awareness, problem solving, social skills, manners, consideration, getting along with others, and much more.
To watch some of the videos, click on the following links. (In some instances, only the link for the first part of each video is shown. The second and third part of each video will automatically be displayed on YouTube once the first part is finished.)
You can buy the DVDs here (each DVD contains two episodes in English, Spanish and Portuguese)
Character-building stories for children featuring fun Dino friends. Featured values include courtesy, healthy habits, obedience, honesty, resolving conflicts, forgiveness and thinking about others. Click here to watch several of these stories or purchase the DVDs (available either with the story books or on their own)
Animated Hero Classics
Animated Hero Classics is an educational Animated television series of programs co-produced by Nest Family Entertainment and Warner Bros. The series, geared toward elementary school aged children, includes twenty biographies of both female and male scientists, inventors, explorers, and social champions, including:
Adventures from the Book of Virtues
Adventures from the Book of Virtues is an animated made for TV series. It features two children, Zach and Annie, who learn an array of life lessons from Plato the Bison, Aurora the Hawk, Aristotle the Prairie Dog and Socrates the Bobcat. Drawing inspiration from the Bible, fairy tales, mythology and folk stories from various cultures, this show is sure to appeal to children from all walks of life. Each episode is about half an hour in length and the shows can be viewed in any order.
Click here for the playlist with 36 episodes (YouTube)
If you're a parent, you need to take a long, hard look at what's out there and decide if that's how you want your children to turn out, because what they watch and listen to and imitate today, they will become tomorrow. - D.B. Berg
When I think back on my own childhood, images of love, encouragement, and warm family memories flood my mind. I recall evenings on my dad’s lap listening to him read to me for hours. I have no doubt that those experiences instilled in me a lifelong love of books. Four decades later I can still hear my mom’s words, “Treat everyone with kindness, Michele,” in the same tone she used when I was young. The values that my parents modeled—perseverance, compassion, acceptance, and believing in myself—are the same ones that guide my life today. And they are the same values I try to model to my own children. You don’t need research to prove your influence: just one moment of catching your child imitating your behavior or repeating your words or emulating your values should confirm that you do make a difference.
Common sense tells us we can significantly influence the direction of children’s lives. And there’s a simple reason: the skills for living successfully are learned—not inherited; we can make an enormous difference because we can teach these skills to our children and to our students. Handling life’s ups and downs, getting along with others, setting a goal and not giving up until it is reached, knowing how to find solutions and resolve conflicts, communicating assertively, and doing it all with compassion and empathy are the skills that build solid characters, strong minds, and caring hearts, and they are all skills that can be taught. Although our love and affection may not necessarily make our children more self-confident and friendly, we can nurture the skills that do enhance the traits of successful living. And regardless of your children’s innate temperament and genetic makeup, you can expand their potential by teaching them how to live more successful and fulfilled lives.--Michele Borba
How you live—your priorities, how you spend your time and money, how you treat others and your possessions—is the single best indicator of what matters to you and what values you hold dear. Believe me, your children read your life far more clearly than they heed your words. If both are in harmony, that’s great. If they’re not, it’s time to reevaluate.
As you try to instill good values in your children, ask yourself:
What does it mean to prepare children for life? It means giving thought to how to help your children progress through the natural stages of growth and development, being aware and abreast of what their peers are into or facing, and preparing your children for times when they may have to face similar things. It means teaching your children to have courage when they’re faced with difficult situations, and how to approach new situations responsibly and with confidence. It means that rather than sheltering your children from the negative influences in the world today, you teach them how to judge what’s right and wrong, and how to act with integrity, self-discipline, conviction, love, tolerance, and strength of character. …
Teaching children moral values is a challenge that all parents face. Every concerned parent has to teach his or her children to hold to their values and convictions and beliefs even when exposed to influences that would not be tolerated in their own home, but which are simply a part of life once children attend school, have friends from families that don’t share a similar faith or moral code, etc. Preparing your children is essentially teaching them how to act and behave outside of the “safety” of their home or family structure, how to respond to circumstances with moral conviction, and how to cope when they’re away from their parents, as they face the realities of the world. …
Children today face many influences, and they will face more in the course of life. Some will be positive, some will be negative, and many will be somewhere in between. Taking on the mentality of preparing them for life will help you to accept that you’re not able to protect them from ever coming in contact with negative influences, but that you are able to guide them to learn how to make right decisions when they do come in contact with them.--Maria Fontaine
“The Word of God is living and powerful.” (Hebrews 4:12) It lives in us, speaks to us, and fills our lives with light and understanding. As we drink in the living water of God’s Word, it begins to transform our hearts, minds, and lives. We begin to see things from God’s point of view, which often is entirely different from our own way of thinking. We discover things about ourselves and others that we cannot learn any other way.
We wouldn’t say to a child lost in a forest, “Find your own way.” We would never think of not feeding our children, or not clothing them, or not letting them go out and play and get fresh air and exercise. Neither should we withhold from them the words of life—the power, light, and life of God. Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:63)
It is through God’s Word that your children will learn what is right and what is wrong, and it is God’s Word that will give them a solid foundation to hang onto through all the tests and trials they will face. And as they grow up, they will indeed face many, because life is a proving ground where we must learn to make choices on the side of what is right and good, rather than what is wrong and hurtful. Young as they are, your children soon find themselves engaged in this spiritual struggle and begin making choices that can greatly affect their lives and the lives of others. As parents, you can better prepare your children for these tough choices by giving them Jesus, a foundation of faith, and a knowledge of God’s Word.--Derek and Michelle Brookes
By Amy Joyce, Washington Post
Earlier this year, I wrote about teaching empathy, and whether you are a parent who does so. The idea behind it is from Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist with the graduate school of education, who runs the Making Caring Common project, aimed to help teach kids to be kind.
I know, you’d think they are or that parents are teaching that themselves, right? Not so, according to a new study released by the group.
About 80 percent of the youth in the study said their parents were more concerned with their achievement or happiness than whether they cared for others. The interviewees were also three times more likely to agree that “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”
Weissbourd and his cohorts have come up with recommendations about how to raise children to become caring, respectful and responsible adults. Why is this important? Because if we want our children to be moral people, we have to, well, raise them that way.
“Children are not born simply good or bad and we should never give up on them. They need adults who will help them become caring, respectful, and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood,” the researchers write.
The five strategies to raise moral, caring children, according to Making Caring Common:
1. Make caring for others a priority. Why? Parents tend to prioritize their children’s happiness and achievements over their children’s concern for others. But children need to learn to balance their needs with the needs of others, whether it’s passing the ball to a teammate or deciding to stand up for friend who is being bullied.
How? Children need to hear from parents that caring for others is a top priority. A big part of that is holding children to high ethical expectations, such as honoring their commitments, even if it makes them unhappy. For example, before kids quit a sports team, band, or a friendship, we should ask them to consider their obligations to the group or the friend and encourage them to work out problems before quitting.
• Instead of saying to your kids: “The most important thing is that you’re happy,” say “The most important thing is that you’re kind.”
• Make sure that your older children always address others respectfully, even when they’re tired, distracted, or angry.
• Emphasize caring when you interact with other key adults in your children’s lives. For example, ask teachers whether your children are good community members at school.
2. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude. Why? It’s never too late to become a good person, but it won’t happen on its own. Children need to practice caring for others and expressing gratitude for those who care for them and contribute to others’ lives. Studies show that people who are in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate, and forgiving—and they’re also more likely to be happy and healthy.
How? Learning to be caring is like learning to play a sport or an instrument. Daily repetition—whether it’s a helping a friend with homework, pitching in around the house, or having a classroom job—make caring second nature and develop and hone youth’s caregiving capacities. Learning gratitude similarly involves regularly practicing it.
• Don’t reward your child for every act of helpfulness, such as clearing the dinner table. We should expect our kids to help around the house, with siblings, and with neighbors and only reward uncommon acts of kindness.
• Talk to your child about caring and uncaring acts they see on television and about acts of justice and injustice they might witness or hear about in the news.
• Make gratitude a daily ritual at dinnertime, bedtime, in the car, or on the subway. Express thanks for those who contribute to us and others in large and small ways.
3. Expand your child’s circle of concern. Why? Almost all children care about a small circle of their families and friends. Our challenge is help our children learn to care about someone outside that circle, such as the new kid in class, someone who doesn’t speak their language, the school custodian, or someone who lives in a distant country.
How? Children need to learn to zoom in, by listening closely and attending to those in their immediate circle, and to zoom out, by taking in the big picture and considering the many perspectives of the people they interact with daily, including those who are vulnerable. They also need to consider how their decisions, such as quitting a sports team or a band, can ripple out and harm various members of their communities. Especially in our more global world, children need to develop concern for people who live in very different cultures and communities than their own.
• Make sure your children are friendly and grateful with all the people in their daily lives, such as a bus driver or a waitress.
• Encourage children to care for those who are vulnerable. Give children some simple ideas for stepping into the “caring and courage zone,” like comforting a classmate who was teased.
• Use a newspaper or TV story to encourage your child to think about hardships faced by children in another country.
4. Be a strong moral role model and mentor. Why? Children learn ethical values by watching the actions of adults they respect. They also learn values by thinking through ethical dilemmas with adults, e.g. “Should I invite a new neighbor to my birthday party when my best friend doesn’t like her?”
How? Being a moral role model and mentor means that we need to practice honesty, fairness, and caring ourselves. But it doesn’t mean being perfect all the time. For our children to respect and trust us, we need to acknowledge our mistakes and flaws. We also need to respect children’s thinking and listen to their perspectives, demonstrating to them how we want them to engage others.
• Model caring for others by doing community service at least once a month. Even better, do this service with your child.
• Give your child an ethical dilemma at dinner or ask your child about dilemmas they’ve faced.
5. Guide children in managing destructive feelings. Why? Often the ability to care for others is overwhelmed by anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings.
How? We need to teach children that all feelings are okay, but some ways of dealing with them are not helpful. Children need our help learning to cope with these feelings in productive ways.
Here’s a simple way to teach your kids to calm down: ask your child to stop, take a deep breath through the nose and exhale through the mouth, and count to five. Practice when your child is calm. Then, when you see her getting upset, remind her about the steps and do them with her. After a while she’ll start to do it on her own so that she can express her feelings in a helpful and appropriate way.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Ravi Shah is wild about dinosaurs. He knows more about them than any adult I know (maybe with the exception of his mom), and he can rattle off a dizzying number of dinosaur facts faster than you can say “tyrannosaurus.” When I first met the lively 7-year-old, he led me to his kitchen counter, where he had arranged a showcase of claysculpted dinosaurs. Next to each of the orange and blue blobs of clay, he had attached a price tag—50 cents, 75 cents, one dollar. “I’m selling them for charity,” he told me matter-of-factly. “Want to buy one?”
Ravi’s passion for dinosaurs may not be unlike that of other boys his age, but what is different is his pursuit in giving. He’s been doing it since he was 2. As Ravi has gotten older, the Shahs have continued to teach him about giving and helping others. “We have a ‘new toy’ rule in our house,” Shah said. “Every time he gets a new toy, he must donate one he no longer plays with. We let him decide which toys he wants to give away, and then together we take the items to the Goodwill.”
Ravi’s giving doesn’t stop there. He comes up with clever ways to raise money for charity—from lemonade stands to concerts to selling more clay animals over the Internet (even in the first grade, he had his own website). “We give him ideas on different charities he can donate to, but let him decide where the money goes,” Shah said.
Many families are interested in teaching their children the value of giving, but they don’t always know the best way to do it. According to Susan Crites Price, author of The Giving Family: Raising Our Children to Help Others (Council on Foundations, 2001), it’s important to start young. “Habit gets instilled at an early age, and young kids can do a lot,” Price said. Preschoolers, for example, can go with the family to volunteer at a soup kitchen, or help pick up litter around the neighborhood. “That doesn’t mean that for teenagers it’s too late, but the earlier they start giving, the more it becomes a habit.”
In her interviews with parents and experts nationwide, Price found there are several keys to raising charitable children. Here is what she recommends:
• Make giving the rule, rather than the exception. “We teach kids to brush their teeth because it’s good for them. We also need to teach them to give and serve—because that’s good for them too.” If you find the right projects, Price says, they won’t complain.
• Show and tell. “While kids may see us volunteering and writing checks, we should also tell them why we are doing it.” This will help them make those decisions for themselves when they get older.
• Let them lead. “If we let children decide for themselves how to give their time or their money, they are more likely to enjoy it.” It’s good to give them ideas, of course, but better to let them choose
• Find volunteer projects. There are plenty of places to volunteer— schools, community groups, faith-based organizations, clubs, and more. But you don’t need to rely on outside groups for volunteer opportunities. “Kids can create their own volunteer experience — baking cookies for an elderly neighbor or spending time with a special needs child, for example,” Price says. “Look to your own community first.”
• Tie it to something they can see. It makes a better impression when you show kids what they’re giving to, and why. According to Shah, “It’s hard for kids to imagine that other people aren’t as fortunate as they are. Taking them to an orphanage (or another place where they can see people in need) lets them understand why it’s important to help.”
• Consider ways to give more. While no donation is too small, some parents will match what their child wants to give, sending the charity a more meaningful amount. According to Price, one parent even paid her child for his volunteer hours, giving him the opportunity to then donate the money to the same charity.
• Take the time to do it. Kids and parents are busy people. There is soccer practice, music lessons, school, and work—and, of course, getting dinner on the table. “Be intentional about the family giving,” Price recommends. “Make time for it. Make it a priority.”
If you want the idea of giving to stick with your kids, don’t just take time to
do it—do it often. Giving, after all, is more than a one-time event. “It’s really something that has to be a regular part of your life,” Shah said. “If they see you do it and hear you talk about it often, they will want to do it too.”
Text courtesy of Motivated magazine. Photo by David Katarina via Flickr.
Good character consists of knowing the good, desiring the good, and doing the good—habits of the mind, habits of the heart, and habits of action. All three are necessary for leading a moral life; all three make up moral maturity. When we think about the kind of character we want for our children, it's clear that we want them to be able to judge what is right, care deeply about what is right, and then do what they believe to be right—even in the face of pressure from without and temptation from within.--Thomas Lickona
Since our children grow up to be their own persons, free to choose their own path, we can't be sure what long-range impact our moral teaching will have. But when we begin early to teach the values we cherish, and when we do so over many years, our potential influence, I believe, is very great indeed.
Even if our children don't fully understand what we tell them when we tell them, our words may have lasting value nonetheless. They may echo in our children's minds in years to come. And as they look back through the lens of a more mature stage of development, our words may take on new and deeper meaning. As a parent, I find hope and comfort in that possibility.
So talk to your children about what you believe.--Thomas Lickona
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.--Proverbs 22:6
If you continue to hold your child accountable over a period of time, the habit he is trying to develop will become ingrained in him. He will no longer need to be reminded, but he will carry out the habit naturally without much thought.
There are a lot of habits I would like to see my children develop, like making their beds when first rising in the morning, saying please and thank you, drinking lots of water throughout the day. Those habits don't really have any impact on their relationship with the Lord, but they do make a difference. I also want them to develop habits that please the Lord.
I challenge you to examine your children. … Discover what lifelong habits you want your children to have and cultivate them. They won't develop a good habit by being nagged into it, but by constant encouragement. … If we give our children nothing else in life but a love for the Lord Jesus Christ and strong character, we will have succeeded as parents. Character will get him a job. Character will get him up in the morning when he would rather not get up. Character will hold his marriage together someday. If we as parents build strong, godly character traits into our children, they will have the potential to bring about powerful change in our country in the future.--Terri Camp
These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.--Deuteronomy 6:6–7
Before we had children of our own, my husband and I found ourselves teaching a class in a Learning Center with another couple. For two and a half hours each Sunday, we were responsible for about 50 energetic six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds while their parents attended the church service and fellowship hour. At the beginning of each week, we met for dinner with the other couple to plan our lessons and design complementary activities. These sessions sometimes lasted more than three hours, since we had to formulate goals and objectives, prepare teaching agendas, and create evaluation techniques.
Several years of mothering transpired before I realized that my life revealed a huge dichotomy. When I had been in charge of training someone else's children, I spared no amount of time or effort. However, I put very little planning or preparation time into the teaching and transforming of my own kids.
Without realizing it, I had developed the attitude, “If I can just hang in there long enough, my job will eventually be over—by default if nothing else!” … “Somehow,” I reasoned, “they'll inevitably make it to adulthood. Someway they'll mature and make a contribution to society. Someday I will have completed my task.”
But when I took the time to notice, I realized that the “somehow, someway, someday” attitude I had maintained was not working in our society. … Too many children are wandering around (or sitting around kicking the bark off stumps with their heels like mine did) without a clue as to where they are headed in life, because mothers like me have never pointed them in any direction. We can't just hang in there, hoping that somehow, someway, someday our kids will succeed. We need to start taking our child-raising assignment more seriously—making it our top priority. In order to do this, we need to take time to set character goals for our children.
* What five characteristics do I want to distinguish my child's life by the time he leaves home?
* How am I going to steer my child toward one of these goals today?--Gwendolyn Mitchell Diaz
Take [your children] by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.--Ephesians 6:4
Discipline means training your children—training them to lead a disciplined life, and eventually to discipline themselves. If discipline is something that you only do “to” children, the end result could very well be that as soon as they get out from under your control, they go wild. But if you discipline them in the sense that you teach them and train them to lead disciplined lives, then the end result is that eventually they're able to discipline themselves for the most part.--Maria Fontaine