By Lanie Pemberton, Contributing Writer
So you want to raise your child with a heart for service. It’s an amazing goal and one that could positively impact the communities around us in a lasting way. If we are going to change the culture of our world into one that is radically committed to community service and philanthropy, we must start with the future of our world: Kids. But, simply asking your child to participate in a service project every now and again isn’t enough. Here are some simple steps you, the parent, can take in order to make service a priority in your child’s life.
- Lead by Example
The best way to raise your kids with a heart for service is to show them your heart for service. Kids learn through observation. They watch their older siblings and copy their actions, or they mimic their favorite superhero from the latest action movie. And, of course, they watch their parents. They learn what is and isn’t the norm through the actions of the people who lead their household. To create a culture of philanthropy in this world, we must each start in our own home by fostering this kind of lifestyle in our children. What better way to instill this in your kids than to participate in- or lead- service projects! In fact, if you make serving others part of your lifestyle, you won’t have to teach your kids to serve, for they will do it willingly and happily because it is what their parents do.
- Make it a Routine
Dealing with a job, bills, family, friends and other responsibilities make daily life extremely busy. Most people find that if they do not plan for something, it just doesn’t get done. Simply saying you will participate in service projects as you have time usually leads to no service at all. With everything you have to do in a week, there just doesn’t seem to be time in your schedule to serve. If you want service and philanthropy to be part of your life and the lives of your kids, then it needs its own place on your calendar. Set aside a time each week, or each month, that is meant exclusively for service and nothing else. Make it part of your routine and service projects will be much less likely to slip through the cracks. Make this “service slot” a non-negotiable. If it is part of your family’s culture, then your kids won’t question a commitment to community service. It will be the norm.
- Give before Receiving
Another great way to raise your child with a servant’s heart is to encourage them to give before they receive. A great example of this would be having them donate the toys, books and clothing they have outgrown. The weeks before Christmas and birthdays are a great opportunity for this as your kids are about to receive new things. Make it a tradition every year to gather any used things they no longer use and donate them to kids in need. Not only does this serve less fortunate families, it also teaches your kids that giving is just as fun as receiving. Maybe one day they will look forward to the giving more than the receiving!
- Keep the Dialogue Open
Although it may be easy to forget about serving others in between scheduled community projects, keeping a steady discussion about service and philanthropy will keep it at the forefront of your kid’s minds. Talk to your kids about it. Make it a frequent topic at the dinner table or on the ride home from school. Ask your kids if they have heard any particularly inspiring community service stories lately. Share any stories you may have heard. Brainstorm with your kids about new ideas for service projects and service leadership. Talking about these things will help your kids grow in a culture of philanthropy, rather than just participating in a project every now and again and forgetting about it later.
Encourage your kids in whatever service endeavor they may choose. They want to help at the local soup kitchen? Amazing. Praise them for their desire to help the needy. They donate their toys to foster kids in need? What a great way to give back to the community! They want to step out even farther and start their own project? Let them know how confident you are in their ability to lead a movement of service, no matter how big or small. Encouraging your kids as they serve will give them the confidence to take more risks and step out of their comfort zone. Let them know that you believe they are capable of anything! Instill in your child the mindset that any act of service can snowball into something truly great.