Kids Who Care

Help Your Children Take Small Steps

As with homework and religious observance, your children may not always be in the mood to participate with you, but with your encouragement, they'll learn that even if they start out just going through the motions, good things will end up happening.

Recently, my wife and I helped deliver flyers for a friend's Seattle City Council campaign. At first, our 10-year-old son, Will, didn't want to join us, but he ended up turning our task into a game, racing up and down apartment stairways and halls. A few days later, when our friend narrowly won, Will was delighted to have played a part in the victory.

Jackie Montreuil, of Farmington, New York, showed her 4-year-old daughter, Jillian, a newspaper article about children who had helped save a whale named Keiko. "I wanted to do something to help others too," says Jillian. With her mother's help, she decorated a jar with stickers and a ribbon, and then she collected pennies from family and friends. With the $7.50 proceeds, Jillian decided to buy some groceries and donate them to the local food bank. Montreuil also encouraged her 7-year-old son, Ben, to give 25 cents of his weekly allowance to a charity of his choice, often the local animal shelter.

Children like the Montreuils, who help others in small ways--giving old toys away when they get new ones, collecting canned goods at Thanksgiving or change for Unicef at Halloween, donating last year's jacket to a coat drive -- become more receptive to helping others in need later on. Step by step, children will learn that their efforts can do more -- for themselves and for the world -- than they ever imagined.

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