Hylton I Lightman MD DCH (SA) FAAP
In recent days, the daughter of a local Shul rabbi organized a bake sale in her home. She raised over $4,000 in two hours for Israel. She raised public awareness. And most important, she stepped out of her despair and joined a large swath of people who want to give and do and make a difference for the positive for Achainu Bnai Yisrael. This young lady’s initiative is cut of the same cloth as the people who helped to send off Chayalim to Israel in that first week (which was only days ago) and to the duffle bag initiative that is doing wonders as are all the programs for giving and doing throughout the Jewish world at present.
I am proud of all of them. They are passionate. They have a vision. They are on fire. They are the next generation, and their time has come.
This is the power of kids learning to love giving. And, with G-d’s help, they grow up to take their places in Klal Yisrael as givers and doers.
We are in unprecedented times when we don’t know what might happen from moment to moment. But by giving, we and our children can maintain a constructive and purposeful mindset. We will not let despair consume us.
There’s scientific evidence that kids are receptive to these messages. Research suggests that they have a deeply rooted instinct to share and to help others from the time they are as young as 18-30 months old. A study shows that toddlers enjoy giving to others more than they like getting treats for themselves. From age two, research has found that toddlers are happier giving than receiving. Seriously.
Kids have a strong, natural drive to be kind and generous, especially outside our homes.
How is it that the same kids who may be the last ones to show generosity in their homes are shining beacons of light in this regard when away from the family home?
The key lies, I believe, in nurturing a child’s inner motivation for generosity – It has to be something that they do for themselves so that they do not see it as being imposed on them by their ogre of parents. Giving has to feel good.
More importantly, kids need to see giving as being part of a picture that is larger than themselves. I’ve schepped incredible Naches when my children and their friends have told my wife and me that what they are doing makes them feel great – and that they are part of the large, great picture called The Jewish People.
That these kids are experiencing “highs” from giving to others is one of the most valuable ways that we can nurture generosity within them. It is a positive cycle of Giving-to-People-Makes -Us-Happy-and Happiness-Then-Promotes-Giving.
It’s interesting that while the desire to help others and to create an impact comes naturally, knowing how to give with intention – how to give charity and manage monetary giving and giving of time effectively – does not. Teaching children about giving can help them discover causes they care about, develop budgeting skills and financial literacy, and make them aware of valuable tools to help change the world.
What practical steps can we take to teach our children about giving and community involvement?
Talk about giving and your community involvement. Telling your children stories about how you give back and some of the organizations you support is a great place to start a conversation. It’s an opportunity to discuss the Torah and Maasering money and why you think giving is important.
Providing an allowance with equal parts set aside for saving, spending, and giving to Tzedaka helps reinforce good saving habits and the value of generosity. Every few months, sit down together and choose where the donation goes.
Introduce family rituals such as bringing a homemade dessert to a neighbor or packaging gifts for Yom Tov for older community members. Offer to shovel a sidewalk for a neighbor or bring in their trash cans. It’s called creating opportunities.
Talk about your feelings, Mom and Dad, when you give or buy things for those in need. Do you feel proud, helpful, or generous? Does it make you feel good that you can make a difference in other people’s lives?
Financial literacy is an essential lesson for young people. Sound money management skills can help set up kids for future success.
Encouraging teens to volunteer for causes they care about helps them learn new lessons about responsibility and teamwork while meeting new people and engaging in activities they enjoy.
Give your teens a budget for giving and let them choose where to direct the funds. This means a conversation or two about selecting an organization to support and how to have an impact.
Do it together with your kids. Cleaning out a room and have clothes or things to donate? Discuss it with your kids.
Praise the giving impulse at all ages. When you see your children being generous, point it out and praise them. Help them put into words the positive feelings they may have as they help others.
The goal is to make the process of giving a natural part of our children’s lives. We as a nation have done something right, as evidenced by the tsunami of giving over the last 2+ weeks. But this is no time to rest on our laurels. The feelings of gratification our children experience are real. It’s our job to continue role modeling and to encourage and support the feelings of gratification so our children grow from strength to strength.
May we see our children use their talents as givers in good times B’Karov – and discover that giving can be the best gift.
As always – and now, more than ever, please Daven.