Your Children Are Watching You: Teaching Children to be Charitable


I want to remind you for a moment that your children absorb every thing you do and everything you say, whether or not it seems like it. I remember this every time I see my daughter shout at our dog, “No Shoe Shoe!”, through her gestures when we go to church, and at the end of the night when she points and says, “Mommy wine”. 

I also want to remind you that you are far more likely to be homeless than you are to be famously rich.

I’m not telling anyone to take their tots on a trip to a seedy downtown area late at night with cash in hand, but there are things you can do to help your community that encourages charity in your children.

My children are young but I have begun imparting these examples to them and I have had the opportunity to do these activities with past foster children.

Volunteer together:

Intentionally clean up trash at the park, take dogs on walks from the Humane Society, participate in the Special Olympics or take up a monthly shift at the Flagstaff Family Food Center. A foster daughter we had really enjoyed volunteering with us in the kitchen. Because of her age, she was only allowed to help clean and pass out drinks, but she always asked to come back. There are so many volunteer opportunities for every age and interest.

Pass out Food:

Speaking of the Family Food Center, another way to feed the hungry is to always be prepared to meet them. We have quite a bit of panhandling in Flagstaff, and I never give out money. It isn’t safe, it could be spent on something you don’t want for them and worst of all they may not actually be needy. At all times we have a rotation of snacks in our car. Sometimes we have items specifically to hand out, like sports drinks, water bottles or granola bars. Other times we just hand out what we have for ourselves. I usually have something in my diaper bag too, so if I pass someone on the street I ask them if they would like what I have. We’ve even given away leftovers and Halloween candy. 

Connect with people:

While you’re handing out food, or even if you have nothing to give, be kind. Don’t say nothing and walk by. Make eye contact, smile, say hello. If someone is unkind, which I have rarely experienced, you can apologize and just keep walking. Children learn by example. We want to teach them that everyone is a human being that should be treated with kindness. 


Even very young children understand that there are others who have less than they do. I used to say, “let’s make room in your toy box and give things to children with no toys”. But now my children are too young and I go through their things constantly, and almost as soon as they’re given something they don’t need. As they get older, they will be involved.

Spend the money (wisely):

My toddler loves to tithe at church. That is, she loves to run the envelope to the collection basket at the front. We donate to charities we feel strongly about. And even though we don’t need $12 cookie dough, we’re going to support the Soprano trying to raise money for her Disneyland choir trip. Find ways to give that are worthwhile to you.

In whatever way you choose to help others, do so with your children. They have their eyes on you.