We ask our children all the time to follow directions and dutifully they (usually) do. Teenage years may offer us the anomaly to this, but in general, our children follow our directions. That's a good thing: it is ultimately to keep them safe and to understand boundaries. However, they do need to understand why you are asking them to follow directions. This is not to suggest that they rebut with "But why?", but rather that in the grand scheme of things, they need to know why it is important that they follow directions. We all seek purpose, so on some level shouldn't there be a purpose for their adherence to the rules? Generally speaking, though: we order, they follow; a simple familial hierarchy. When it comes to the art of charity, though, it is imperative that from an early age, we establish why we give, expecting nothing in return.

Inherent to teaching charity is teaching compassion. We must teach our children true compassion. What must it be like to be in someone else's shoes? (Be careful using that expression with younger children....my seven year old thought it actually meant putting on someone else's shoes and walking around. She asked what to do if they wore a different size than she did...) If children give because we say, "Give", then the efforts are lost because it becomes a meaningless routine or chore. So before we move on to discuss why we give, we must first be able to teach our children to think outside of themselves for a minute and imagine what life might be like for someone else. This is very difficult for adults, so of course it's difficult for children. In their brain, their world is in little boxes: a box for home, a box for school, a box for church, etc. As they experience more, they gain more boxes, until finally, they can think about those boxes more abstractly and with more emotion. So teaching compassion will take repetition from you. We use the "close your eyes, listen, and imagine" routine a lot with our kids. When I used to teach, I used to ask my students to close their eyes, listen, and pretend they were watching the movie about the topic I was describing...how would they direct this scene? What would be happening? Describe the scene to me. It allowed the kids to get out of their boxes of home, school, etc. and into a pretend world that wasn't threatening to them. So the first step in teaching your children the art of giving is to teach compassion. Once they understand why others may need help or a pat on the back, they can then learn to give humbly.

When we are raising our children, one of the fundamental lessons we teach is to share. Give, then get it back. And usually, it's a thing they are giving and getting. Charity is abstract, it's not necessarily tangible, and you shouldn't expect a tangible reward. This is difficult for a child's brain; again, they think fairly concretely. When a child gives something, they expect something in return (we taught them that, remember?). It reminds me of when my oldest daughter was about four and she went into shy stage number 3. We had been teaching her all along not to talk to strangers, but I would often tell her to say hi to someone she had never met and she wouldn't. Lo and behold! She was following my directions! Similarly, when we teach our children to share, gradually they come to expect something in return. Now that your child has a profound grasp of all things compassionate, it's time to teach that sometimes a reward is a good feeling, or it makes your heart feel good. But most importantly, that that good feeling is ENOUGH of a reward. We don't need accolades or recognition. We have done a good thing and that is what one human does for another. It feels good to do good deeds. But to learn this, you have to talk to your children about it. After you have committed the act of charity, talk to them about it. "Imagine you are so hungry and don't know when you will eat again and you just received the food we gave them. How would that make you feel?" Be age appropriate, but guide their feelings and make them realize the physiological effects of good deeds. So now you have a compassionate child that expects nothing in return for their act of charity.

Here comes the fun part: you get to introduce your children to the inestimable options for charity. If you own the
fisherkids responsibility station, this is where you teach them what to do with their "Give It" money bag. Talk with your child about the options: giving monetary donations, buying tangible items to donate, pledging donations, etc. They can give all the money to one place, or break it up among many...it's all up to them. They can give monthly, quarterly, or yearly....it's all up to them. Teach them about medical research, about homeless shelters, about nonprofit organizations. Teach them that even giving to their favorite places like the zoo, school, church, or a museum is charity. Even entry fees for running events, like kids' 5Ks would go to charity (Oh! You get exercise as a family, too! What a bonus!) The possibilities are endless, and the intrinsic rewards are simply priceless.

If your child needs a visual to understand what their donation is doing for others, start a jar of goodwill. On a slip of paper, write (or have them write) what they think the receiver is going to gain from the donation, then put it in the jar. As their donations increase, so will the slips of paper. You can periodically go back and read some of the things your child has done to better the life of someone else.

One customer of the
fisherkids responsibility station extended the act of charity into household chores. On one of the chore sticks, she wrote: "Donation Dash". Her daughter had to go through the playroom and pick out one toy that could be donated to a child that didn't have quite so many toys. I LOVE IT. Purging the extraneous AND teaching charity. Whew....

Compassionate, humble children. I believe they may just grow into compassionate, humble adults. And the world will be a bit better of for it.


The Fisherkids Responsibility Station helps parents as they teach their children financial responsibility. It promotes three arenas of fiscal management: giving, saving, and spending.  Teaching your children the art of giving can be one of the most rewarding gifts of parenting.  To see your child voluntarily want to give to others is an amazing sight and one to be cherished.  Read on below and as always, email us if there is a topic you would like us to cover!

"Our blessings simply engulf our misfortunes."

-Charles D. Butts, Jr. {Jennifer's Dad}


"If I fish for you, you eat for a day.  If I teach you to fish, you eat for a lifetime."

responsibility stations