How Children Learn to be Philanthropic

A recently released study from the Lilly Family School of Family Philanthropy looked at how parents can teach their children to be charitable. While it is not a surprise to hear that parents significantly affect their child’s behaviour, it is interesting to learn that parents’ giving to charity (role-modelling) is not enough – rather intentional teaching is what really makes a difference.

Talking with your children about your values and why you give to the charities or causes that you do helps them to build understanding and empathy.

The holiday seasons provides a natural opportunity for having these discussions. The more profound influence, however, will come from making giving a part of everyday life. Teaching children that each of us has time, talent and treasure to share can occur at all ages and year round. When asked recently how they passed their commitment to the community on to their children, Peter and Karen Turkstra responded “our kids learned that it is just what we do”. Helping others, getting involved, sharing your resources, and seeing where you can make a positive difference are woven into their everyday lives.

Over the past several years Hamilton Community Foundation has provided support to citizens in some of Hamilton’s most challenged neighbourhoods and here we have witnessed the profound lessons that these families are teaching their children. From babies to teens, children are involved with their parents in planning and implementing things that will improve their communities. These children, too, are being raised with the belief that “this is just what we do”.

Philanthropy has been described as “an empowering experience that helps children gain a profound sense of their place in the world”.

If you haven’t already, take a moment this holiday season and start the conversation with your children. It may be the greatest gift you give and receive.