Teaching Kids About Service

During the holidays children become a little more aware of giving, but in a very tangible way. They like to give gifts to family and friends knowing they will most likely get something in return. Unfortunately, there are two critical elements missing.

The first element is the mindset of giving a gift with absolutely no expectation of getting something in return. Plus, in American culture all too often the mindset is on getting a gift that's "good enough" for the recipient. Contrast this with traditional Japanese culture where the person gives the gift in a humble fashion, because they know no gift is really worthy of the recipient. Completely different mindset.

The second element, and the more important one, is thinking in terms of service. Most kids think service is something you get at a restaurant. When I talk to groups of kids I ask them if they've ever held the door for someone. Most have. Then I ask them how it made them feel to hold the door for that person. Typically they say it made them feel good. Then I ask how they think the other person felt. Again they respond that it makes them feel good. I take it one step further and tell them it makes them feel recognized.

That's what service boils down to, recognizing the needs of others and doing what you can to help them with their need. Whether it be holding the door open for someone, taking them a meal when they are sick, or just giving someone a smile, it all adds great value to a persons day. They know someone cares about them at that moment.

Sit down with your child and make a list with them of all the ways they can be of service, both to the people they know and do not know. Giving to charities with either time or money will be on the list somewhere, but get them to focus on the simple little acts they can do every day.

Once you have the list, let them decide what six or seven things they want to do. Then have them focus on doing one every day. Here's the big key. Have a way for them to check off what they did that day AND discuss how it made them feel. Before long, giving service will be a part of their character.

As Zig Ziglar always said, "If you help enough other people get what they want, you'll get exactly what you want." The earlier kids learn this the more rewarding their lives will be, not just financially but emotionally and spiritually as well.