PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH
As with everything else in life, kids learn best by example. You don't have to regale your child with tales of your charitable works or keep him glued to your side while you serve meals in a soup kitchen to prove that you care too. But neither should you hide everyday acts of kindness. If you're taking a meal to a friend who has just gotten out of the hospital, say so. If you help raise funds for worthy causes through your church, temple, or local community group, talk about it. If you give money to an organization you believe in, explain why doing so is important to you.
By talking about to whom and how you give, you not only show your kids the importance of giving itself, but you're sharing your values about the issues that matter most to your family—whether you're passionate about supporting the arts, cleaning up the environment, assisting the elderly, or helping to alleviate poverty and homelessness. Although some parents may worry about exposing young children to painful experiences that might haunt them later, Houser thinks the joy inherent in giving far outweighs any sadness they may encounter. She notes, "Kids can handle so much more than we give them credit for."
So can moms and dads. Busy parents who have found it hard to devote time to worthy causes outside their own homes may well discover that teaching their children to give back to the community is an ideal way to get back in touch with their own charitable impulses. "We call it trickle-up charity," says Spaide. "The effort starts with the kids, but the parents often get the biggest payoff of all."