Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Four Ideas to Teach Kids about Service

It can be difficult to teach young kids to look outside themselves and give to others, especially when they are just learning to share toys or get along with their siblings. However, I had an experience while living in Mexico that taught me that it is possible. Two kids, from a family that I was friends with, gave me one of their toys because they thought I would enjoy it (a plate and bowl about the size of my thumbnail). I was touched because the family lived a very humble life and didn’t seem to have much to give. The parents of the family were also very generous, and I’m sure their kids learned from example. My mother is also an incredible example of generosity; she spends her days thinking of ways to serve others.

Though it may be a little rough to start teaching kids about service while they are little, your children’s generous attitude and habit of serving will benefit countless people. Here are some ideas to get started:

Serve your family and close friends
Start by serving people that your children know. Ask them what they think might make someone happy: maybe a hug, a song, a drawing, or some cookies. When I was young, I wrote letters to my cousins to brighten their day. These small acts of kindness will help them to understand others’ emotions and needs.

Serve in your community
There are ALWAYS ways to serve in your community. An easy way to find volunteer opportunities for your family near you is through United Way (see link below). If there is an assisted living center, hospital, or shelter in your area, call and ask about opportunities for families. Kids can go through old clothes and pick some to donate or tag along to the grocery store and pick out some canned food to give.

Say “yes” to their ideas
Maybe your child will have a very different idea than you of how to serve someone. Encourage them and accept their ideas. Maybe their ideas seem odd to you like washing the already clean car, but your kids will realize that they have positive things to share when you help them follow through with their ideas.

Teach by word and example
Kids won’t learn to be generous if they never have an example to learn from. It’s also beneficial to talk about what service is and why mommy or daddy serves others. Find some stories at the library about giving and service and ask your child why the characters choose to give (see link below).

I have precious memories of raking leaves with my dad and baking cookies with my mom while growing up, and I’m sure you have similar memories of service with your parents. Teaching kids to be service-oriented will benefit countless people and help strengthen your relationship with them.

Volunteer Opportunities through United Way:

Children’s books about service:

Other sources about teaching kids to give:

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