Outstanding Shares: Making Charity Part of Our Child's Daily Routine

Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words. Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions. Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits. Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character. Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny. 

-- Chinese proverb, author unknown


I recently read an article in Fast Company that made me not only consider the environment in which our behaviors are formed, but also the power we, as parents, have to manipulate that culture in order to affect our children’s concept of social equality...and make their efforts towards philanthropy habitual.


 “[Millenials] have shown different attitudes to ownership[ that have helped spawn what’s being called a ‘sharing economy’. They are also the first generation of digital natives…they are used to instant access to price comparisons, product information and peer reviews.” -Fast Company | March 2015


In short, I’d say growing up during an economic downturn with unprecedented access to information has made the Millennial generation, leaner, smarter and more focused than any other generation before them. They say “Rising tides lift all ships” but lower tides seem to breed more efficient vessels.

Different attitudes, such as these, are more often formed over time by a belief system developed within one’s family and social systems than they are quickly learned. And the behaviors exhibited within one’s family not only affect the inner-dynamics of that family but also greatly contribute to the self-image, value systems, goals and ultimately… world view each member of that family holds.


Automaticity is the ability to do things without occupying the mind with the low-level details required, allowing it to become an automatic response pattern or habit. It is usually the result of learning, repetition, and practice.


“It takes an average 66 days to form a new habit, according to new research by Phillippa Lally and colleagues from the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre based at UCL Epidemiology and Public Health.” - See more at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0908/09080401#sthash.uJMKYm9S.dpuf

If we want to make sharing and social consciousness automatic for our children throughout their adult lives, we need to teach them these habits now…while they’re already learning economic behavior and well on their way of establishing an indelible view of the world and their place in it. 

When our children accompany us to the grocery store, whether as an active participant or merely as a passenger belted to the shopping cart, they are observing our social interactions, our decision making and how we spend / exchange money. 

When my daughter finds a quarter on the street (or on my dresser) she knows to put it in her piggy bank or pickle jar. When she loses a tooth she knows that the tooth fairy will visit that night and exchange some cash or coin for that tooth. My wife and I recognize the fact that our examples, expectations and explanations are a constant source of education and formation for our daughter but it recently occurred to us that our, at times inadvertent but always meaningful, lessons had failed to include conscious acts of financial charity. Sure she understood why Mommy and Daddy go to special fundraising dinners as well as the reasons why we purchase toys for less fortunate children around the holidays. She even has come to set aside her own unworn or outgrown clothing for donating to those in need… but we hadn’t been making the charitable association with actual currency the way we were making with “saving” and “spending”.  It suddenly became clear that our communicating the expectation that money should be saved in a piggy bank was serving as the earliest basis for her understanding of economics just as being a passenger in a car for the first 15 years of your life provides some basis for understanding the “rules of the road”.

We consequently decided not only to be more conscious about including our 4yr old daughter as a witness to any financial contributions we were making to charities and nonprofits, but to also utilize mechanisms that ingrain in her the realization that it’s not only important to save and sharing her money that it’s not only important how we spend and save our money, but it’s that spend wisely…but that it’s also important to share wisely. 

We accomplished this by visibly placing “Sharing” on equal footing with “Saving” and “Spending” 

move over piggy bank, there's more to do with our money than just saving it.

So that when she finds, earns or is given money (from over-generous grandparents or over-turned sofa cushions) she considers which of the three jars she will put it in.

Lately, she's been dividing it equally.



#saving, #economics #children #mirror, #map #compass  #self-image, #world view, #value system, #goals, #social equality #cognitive psychology #holism