Children are born givers. I will never forget the time Michael and I were fretting about paying the mortgage and my youngest, Amanda, piped up that she would pay the bill with the money she had in her piggy bank. In her mind, it was that simple: We needed the money and she had the money. Never mind that she only had about $10 in change. What she taught me in that generous moment was she would give us all she had to help solve our problem. And giving is what kids do. They come armed with the desire to give. All we have to do is provide them with opportunities to exercise that instinct.

It’s important they see you give your own money, time and talent to a cause, but it’s not enough. To teach a child the power of putting the “do” in donate you need to provide them with opportunities to do good themselves.

President Bush presented American children with a giving opportunity in 2001 when he asked them to earn and donate one dollar to help the children of Afghanistan.

Children responded — according to the American Red Cross, they donated nearly $12 million. Those dollars have provided school supplies, food and medicine and have rebuilt schools for Afghan children.

This weekend, give your child a “presidential challenge” of your own. Give him $1 (or more if your child is older, but keep the amount within your usual giving level). Explain to him that he has one week to find a charity or cause he would like to benefit from that money.

Start the process by talking about what your children love — animals, sports, playgrounds, reading. Show them how all of the things they love present an opportunity for them to donate.

At the end of the week, set up a family meeting to talk about the cause he chose. And promise to match his donation if he can convince you to help based on his reasoning for choosing that charity.

Or teach them about donating time and talent rather than cash. Help your child organize a book drive for the school library. Or gather his friends together to clean up a local playground. A child who sings or plays an instrument can visit a retirement home around meal time to entertain the residents; one who doesn’t can volunteer to read to residents who can no longer see.

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Written by Susan Beacham
Susan Beacham founded Money Savvy Generation in 1999 after almost two decades in private banking and investment management complemented by considerable time teaching at the elementary level.

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