Let's face it. Children are born selfish. One of the biggest lessons we all learn in the first few years of our lives is how to share (and some of us keep learning how to do this our whole lives). Kids need to learn to give back. We as humans have a natural instinct to help others. But even if it’s natural, parents must teach their kids what it means to volunteer and give to charity in ways that show compassion and generosity.
It's a “Monkey See, monkey do” concept. Parents have to volunteer and give back to the world (or at least the community) in order for their children to understand that it’s what they should do as well. It’s part of the way we teach children to share. They must exercise their “charity muscles.” The benefits of helping them do this are many. It not only gives them a powerful sense of “feeling good,” but it also helps to counter that “gimme” impulse (especially in young children).
So why can't you just write a check and set an example for your kids? Kids don't really understand the value of money. Their currency is time, attention, and "stuff." That's why anything you do that involves your kids has to be hands-on, whether it's through Boy Scouts, Brownies, or Camp Fire, or you're volunteering at your local shelter. Bottom line, in order for kids to learn, the giving needs to be experienced firsthand.
If your kids are not part of these groups yet, why not create a family project and involve everyone? If you're buying food to donate, let them pick out what cans and boxed goods to give to a food drive. The more your child feels involved, the more he will learn and remember what it feels like to help others. If your kids are older, consider asking them to gather five to ten toys (including stuffed animals) to take to the local children’s hospital. Make sure you explain to your kid that the toys he doesn’t play with anymore will make another kid happy because that kid either doesn’t have any toys or is very ill.
Last but not least, remember that it can’t stop after one act of kindness. It doesn’t have to be a weekly event, but you must practice what you preach. There’s a thing called “trickle-up charity.” When you teach your kids to be charitable, you actually get a huge payoff in the end as well, as you begin to see your kids blossom into caring, compassionate people who's default action is to give and help.