As parents, I think we all have aspirations for our kids. We hope they’ll have a career that’s enjoyable, fulfilling and financially rewarding. We hope they marry someone that will honor, love, respect and protect them. We hope they have good health. And so on.
Most of us also hope our kids will somehow leave this world a better place than they found it.
Then we glance over at our son, or daughter, sprawled on the couch pounding Pringles, watching Vampire Diaries while texting 14 friends on their iPhone, and we wonder how it could ever happen.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was something we could add to their milk or order from the dollar menu that would make them superheroes of altruism and benevolence attacking the injustices of our time?
Can I get the double compassion burger with spicy, curly charity fries, and a chocolate caring shake. Thanks!
Stack the odds in your favor
OK, while we hold our breath for those products to be invented, what if I told you there was a way you could increase the probably your kids would be givers by 200 or 300%?
And wait, if you order in the next fifteen minutes…!!
Seriously, no gimmick.
A study by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) showed a youth from a family where at least one parent volunteers is almost twice as likely to volunteer as a youth with no family members who volunteer, and nearly three times as likely to volunteer on a regular basis.
In another study researchers found that parents who model giving behaviors have about an 80% chance of raising a giving kid, while non-giving parents have about a 25% chance.
Lead and they will follow
So here it is, are you ready? Lead by example.
Yes, you need to model giving behavior.
Now you’re thinking, “He’s gonna tell me that I need to serve at my local soup kitchen, volunteer at my local women’s crisis center, or be a Big Brother. And I barely have time to sleep as it is!”
Relax, those are all great investments of your time and energy but they aren’t what I have in mind.
Serving soup once a year at a local shelter is a great way to give but if you think it’ll convert your kids to a lifetime of pro-social volunteerism, don’t bank on it.
My experience is the key to developing a new habit is to start small and set attainable goals.
Your kids need to see your compassion in action on a daily basis.
Why not try some of these ideas?
- Honor your parents. Call them without saying to your kids “OK, kids we have to call Grandma and Grandpa now.”
- Let someone with fewer items go before you at the grocery store checkout.
- Hold the door open for someone.
- Don’t gripe and complain when you sit in traffic.
- Forgive someone who has done you wrong and encourage your child to do the same.
- Be generous, do a little more than is expected.
- Smile…even when you don’t feel like it.
- Tell the truth, even when it’s not convenient.
- Take responsibility.
- Say you’re sorry.
If you need more ideas, check out: 51 Low-cost and No-cost Things You Can Give Today
These are big gifts that don’t require much time or expense.
Our kids are watching us all the time, not just at Christmas.
How I led my family to water
My wife, Ava, and I have volunteered regularly since we first married and we’ve always encouraged our daughters to participate when possible.
But a couple years ago, I felt inspired to get more involved at our church. We attend a mega-church so there are a lot of opportunities to serve.
After considering my options, I purposely chose a role with the Hospitality Team because I wanted to to encourage my oldest daughter to get involved. (At the time, our youngest daughter was serving in the nursery.)
After I signed up I “invited” my daughter to join me.
It hasn’t always been convenient and we’ve missed a couple of times, but it’s been fun times for us to “hang out” and talk while greeting and passing out programs.
Not long ago my youngest daughter started substituting when her older sibling worked. Now she’s become a regular member of the “team”.
And if that weren’t enough, my wife recently decided to join too.
I think secretly I hoped things would turn out like this. But I didn’t force it, I just modeled service and the rest of my family committed when they were ready.
So what can you do to model giving and benevolence to your kids today?
Focus on the little acts of daily giving and the big acts will take care of themselves.
Image: Microsoft Photos