How to Raise Service-Minded Kids in a Self-Centered World

Sometimes the world we live in doesn’t lend itself to helping those in need. In general, the culture around us tells us to look out for ourselves, even at the expense of others. Our communities can pay the price for this type of mindset. Parents who want to eliminate the “look out for number one” attitude can do so by taking specific steps to encourage service-minded children.

Talk often about the difference between wants and needs. Society tells our children they “need” the newest video game system or the piece of clothing with the popular logo. But when they truly understand what a need is, then they will see how blessed they are, and be willing to give to those who truly don’t have shelter, food, clothing, or basic necessities.

Go without. Sometimes to get a real perspective about what it’s like to not have some of the things we take for granted, you have to give them up. So, as a family, fast from some things others might not have. Take a break from using the internet, partaking of desserts, or even eating fresh fruits and vegetables (try the canned variety, which is all many people can afford).

Teach children how to recognize needs. Some people can go through their entire day without ever seeing a need because they haven’t been taught to look through a lens of giving. Point out situations as you go through everyday life where there are opportunities to give. “Look at that Mom on the other side of the waiting room. She looks tired. She might appreciate it if we read a book to her toddler,” or “It’s a cold day. That homeless woman doesn’t have any gloves on her hands.” Then be prepared to take some detours and do something about the needs that you see, even if it’s not necessarily convenient.

Give things away. Children who don’t have a clenching grasp on their possessions are more likely to help others. As a family, go through some things and practice being generous. Don’t just donate your old clothes and broken toys, but give away newer, desirable items that others will receive as a blessing.

Make acts of kindness fun. Think up some family adventures that will be fun to do, yet still bless others in need. Hand out cold bottles of water to some construction workers on a hot day or help an elderly neighbor with some yard work. Come up with some “undercover blessings” that make it fun to give without getting acknowledged. Pay for the person’s meal behind you in the drive-thru lane or tape some quarters to a vending machine for the next person to find when they’re looking for a treat.

Find family service projects. Jump in when there is a community clean-up day or volunteer to help with a food drive. Older children and teens can help serve in a soup kitchen, or even go on trips to help the less fortunate. By participating as a family, you will be teaching your children that serving others is a priority.

Let children see you giving back. One of the most impactful things a parent can do is model serving others. Take the time to help a single parent who needs a helping hand (even if you are a single parent yourself), make a meal for someone who has been ill, or even use your vacation time for a mission trip.

Some children are naturally generous, while others need to be taught to consider the needs of others. Parents can encourage children to grow up helping others by using some of these tips. Hopefully, the result will be a new generation of service-minded adults.

Parent Resources

“When My Granddaughter Asked for a Donation to Charity Instead of a Birthday Present” is a great article about civic-minded children.

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