Raising children who will one day inherit wealth has long been a topic for many books, as is how to make those same children conscious of their privilege to help others. But raising philanthropic children is not something that’s limited to the ultra wealthy – we all want to raise children who are benevolent. Here are a few tips for parents:
- Start early. Use everyday situations to give children an understanding of social and moral values, money, and of privilege. An allowance is always a great start because it allows children to understand that “what they want” often costs money and that they may have to budget to get something they want.
- Its never too late! Even if your children are into their pre-teens or adulthood, it’s never too late to demonstrate social responsibility.
- Allow your actions to speak for you. As anyone who has been around children knows, modeling is one of the primary learning methods for children. Neurologists have actually identified the area in the brain that is responsible for this type of learning and can demonstrate how strong it is in comprehending new behaviors. (They’re called mirror neurons and if you are interested in an easy to understand explanation of them, watch this eight minute Ted Talk. This will totally merit a #mindblown snap, tweet, or insta!)
- But find opportunities for teachable moments and discussions. While talking about it alone isn’t enough to inspire giving children, identifying the right opportunities to explain your rational for certain behaviors, responses, or actions can help children of all ages understand the legacy you are working to create.
- Engage as a family, but find unique opportunities for each child. Spending an afternoon sorting clothes at a local Goodwill, for example, is a great family opportunity and certainly speaks to #3 and #4 above. Yet try to also find things that mean something to each family member and engage them in that. Help one child become your family’s ambassador on how to help your local homeless, or another child learn how bringing friends to visit a senior center can brighten everyone’s day. Like anything else, your children will want to find their own identity and meaning in the giving spirit.
- Find community. Your children will begin to normalize behaviors that their peers are doing. More importantly, a community will help you find the path that makes sense to you. Like anything else with parenting, finding likeminded parents who share their experiences, welcome your perspective, and can help identify resources, will help make the journey easier (and more enjoyable!).
- It is a journey. There is not any one class, book, or blog post for that matter (this one included!) that will create future adults who care about the world around them and also think about their personal privilege in a context to do something about the challenges and issues in our communities.
Lastly, when you need some inspiration, one of our favorite quotes is from a 1986 Fortune Magazine interview with Warren Buffett on what he was leaving his children. The sentiment truly inspires how we see children, wealth, privilege and responsibility:
“The perfect amount to leave children is ‘enough money so that they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing’”.
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