The Importance of Giving Back

Four ways to teach your kids the importance of giving back

Make A Difference Day is October 28. Originating in 1992, this is a day dedicated to helping improve the lives of the people around us.  Plenty of opportunities and projects are available through the website, and throughout the year, and there are many different ways that parents can get their children involved in giving back as well. Having them go through their toys, clothes, or assist in soup kitchens are a few ways you can occupy a child’s mind, but how do you create a true sense of the importance of giving back?

Doing Good Together is a national nonprofit organization based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their focus is on making daily kindness--in the form of volunteering, service, and general attitude--easy for every family. With a scope that moves beyond the one-and-done types of volunteering activities for families, here are their tips on how to raise upstanding citizens:

   1.  Have a conversation with your kids about the bystander effect

The bystander effect is the social phenomena that leads to people being less likely to help someone--even someone in obvious need--when no one else is helping.  Frame it a context that they understand, like someone teasing or bullying at school. Let them answer why they think this might be, and steer the conversation toward how to help in those situations.

  2.  Demonstrate how to get involved

When children see how adults act in situations, they tend to mimic it. Seeing a role model stand up in a difficult situation, or simply help someone in need, reinforces the behavior and makes it more likely they’ll follow it.

  3.  Let them be heroes

Every kid, at some point, wants to be Superman, Wonder Woman, or some other superhero. Teach your children about real life superheroes, particularly when they’re people in your family or in the lives of your children.  Again, it will reinforce the giving back behavior.

  4.  Teach them to intervene

Not all heroes are the kinds who stand up to the bully in front of everyone. Comforting someone who is sad, sitting with someone who usually sits alone at lunch, reporting an incident to a trusted adult… All of these are *quiet* ways in which they can show kindness.

To raise human beings with an honest desire to make a difference, the most important characteristic to cultivate in your kids is kindness. Not only to their friends or family, or people they know, but to whomever needs it. Families that emphasize compassion as well, imbue in their children an “ethical responsibility to all life” that enhances their potential for random acts of kindness. Use this Make A Difference Day to kick off a kindness campaign in your own home!

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