Help Me Raise a Socially Conscious Kid

The five year old did not get why we were spending our afternoon buying electronic equipment we weren’t going to keep.

We were there because AT&T gave $35,000(!!) at Camp Mighty to purchase gifts for charities. My share of the windfall went to buy iPads to outfit the study rooms at Boys Hope, Girls Hope — an awesome organization that provides a boarding school environment and access to private school education for kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.

I wanted Hank to be excited! Happy! To feel the way I was feeling! Feel the way I am feeling, 5-year-old! He did not.

Instead he was mostly grumpy about running an errand. This made me grumpy too, and a little panicky, because when I went to the United Nations Social Good Summit we learned that activism starts in childhood. Hence, I am concerned about failing in my duty to raise a Citizen. And the United Nations telling everyone I am a bad parent.

So I’m wondering how you were raised. Did your parents teach you that it’s important to help others? And if so, how? How did they do it? And if they didn’t do it, are you currently a serial killer instead? Please tell me.

And if your parents did raise you right, here’s a chance to do a little good yourself. AT&T, is partnering with the Make a Wish Foundation to grant a wish every day for 28 days through their Wish-A-Day Sweepstakes. Wishes with the most votes win, so if you have a worthy wish and a Twitter account, get cracking.

Huge thanks to AT&T for being such goodies. In gratitude I pose jubilantly with your logo!

You guys are lovely.

64 thoughts on “Help Me Raise a Socially Conscious Kid

  1. It’s not you, it’s not Hank. It’s Five. Five is the “gimme” age. Five at Christmastime is just the worst.

    Do what you’re doing. Make sure he sees you volunteering and giving, make sure he sees you making sacrifices to share with others. He’ll get there.

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  2. Aside from my parents just plain being generous (of COURSE you help people, it’s just WHAT IS DONE), I think the main influence was experiencing the giving of others. We lived in homes rent-free when we had no income, had boxes of food given to us, had jobs found for us (not all of us, of course, I was just a child) but I grew up experiencing generosity as #1 something to be thankful for but #2 something to be expected. I know that sounds strange, but the fact that I just expect that people will be generous to each other applies to myself as well. If someone asks me for something (or I see the need) and it is in my power to give it to them, I do it. It’s just a matter of course. I’m not ‘doing them a huge favor’ or ‘being charitable’, I’m just doing what everyone does (even if it is not actually what everyone does). I hope that my example is enough for my children because, as much as it shaped my own outlook, I would rather not they have to experience the receiving end of things quite as much. 🙂 I talk to them about what we are doing and why, but I really don’t put any emphasis into how they should feel about it; I don’t make a big deal out of it. So-and-so needs x, so we are going to get it for them. Of course, this can translate interestingly, like “my friend needs a dog, let’s buy them one”, and “my brother needs cake, let’s make some. Some for me too. Because I need a cake.” but the general idea is, I think, seeping in.

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  3. I’ll come at this from a different angle. My mother professed to be such a good Catholic. But she didn’t “walk the walk.” We gave to canned food drives, but we sent the dented, unwanted stuff in the cabinets. She actively discouraged us from helping friends out, or my father from helping neighbors. She couldn’t empathize with those who weren’t exactly like us. Despite that, my brother and I have grown up to be charitable compassionate civic-minded folks. Keep doing what you’re doing. If it sticks, yes! If it doesn’t, then you’ve still given him the building blocks, and your work is done. I guess I’m saying it’s a crapshoot. Hank is an awesome kid!

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  4. #1-Good for you! What an amazing opportunity and experience to be a conduit and deliver gifts that will help kids reach out and learn and communicate!

    Let him choose the who, what, and how of how he wants to share with people or causes. Give him options and ideas and he’ll be a happy and creative participant when he chooses where he’s drawn to help. He’ll build some good memories and life skills of his own. It’s always more when it’s your own idea or you are collaborating with your friends.

    My kids did a lemonade stand and toy sale for Solar Sisters to buy a solar lamp for a schoolgirl so she could read and study at night completely on their own one afternoon when they were little. However, they still won’t let me forget about the time many yrs ago when I asked if they were done with a toy frog i wanted to give away. They didn’t always enjoy coming along to events where I volunteered, unless they had a job that they could put their own stamp on…those are the fond memories for them.

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  5. Things my mom did, so I did too:

    1. Letter writing to Amnesty
    2. Volunteering and taking me along
    3. Park cleanups
    4. Election worker
    5. Always bought extra groceries for the food barrel, telling me why we put them in our cart, and helping me learn nutrition too.
    6. Now in life — Peer pressure: always finding a good charity after disasters and asking how much I was able to give!

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  6. We were in 4-H (in a rural community) and one of my favorite memories was spending a day raking leaves for some elderly people that lived alone. It was more fun because I got to do it with a group of people my age. And also, giant grain trucks full of leaves.

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  7. Five is a little early. 7 or 8 or 9 is when my girls were more interested in giving. The stories about kids just like them who were having a hard time (poverty, war, whatever) seemed to grab their imaginations.

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  8. My mom is a recovering alcoholic. She feels uncomfortable giving money to people on the street because they might spend it on booze. So when I was a kid if someone asked her for spare change she would usually say no. But once in a while, if she had time, she’d say “Can I buy you a meal?” I’ve done the same since I was a teenager. I do give spare change but I really like to buy people meals. The other night my boy and I were walking home in our neighborhood. I had just taken him out for fried chicken, a huge rare treat. A man on the sidewalk asked us for money, saying he wanted to go get some dinner. I gave him change and we walked on, but then I stopped. I reminded my son (age 9) that we had a piece of leftover chicken, and maybe we could offer it to the guy? So we walked back and asked if he wanted it. He did. We handed it over and headed home. I said, “It seems so crazy to me that we have a whole fridge full of food at home, and that guy has nothing. It’s not fair. It makes me feel a little better to share something with him.” “Yeah,” said my boy. “Me too.”

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  9. We volunteered year-round, donated our time to neighborhood organizations and our money to church (seriously, from the time I was five I had a quarter for the collection basket). My parents led by example. We didn’t have much, but that was no reason to not help others who had less. I didn’t ever think about this until high school, when my classmates were scrambling for community service hours to put on their college applications, and I had a long history of service to choose from.

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  10. I don’t remember what exactly my parents DID that taught me to give to others, but as an adult I have realized that it is in my nature to want to give. I have tried to instill that in my 6 year old by asking him to help me donate toys and clothes that he has outgrown to kids that can use them. We pack up the goods and I take him with me to the local organization that supports displaced women and children and I explain to him as well as I can that not everyone is as lucky as we are and it’s up to us (and others) to help them.

    We participate in Toys for Tots every year and have adopted families here and there, but he is just now getting to the age that he understands and WANTS to help. Hank will get there, your every day example will be something that he absorbs just by being with you.

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  11. hi maggie…
    my mom and dad pretty much just showed us by example. i don’t ever remember them saying anything about the importance of helping others. they just always…did it. in the late 60’s, we took in a young man from iran for 6 months. in the 70’s, we took in his brother for 3 years. they are now family. my sister and i both learned by the wonderful example they showed us…and, in turn, we both live that way as well. we give back. it’s the best feeling ever, isn’t it? merry christmas…and love…

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  12. My parent’s didn’t raise me with any real thought of being socially conscious, in fact they were quite self absorbed and a little bit racist.
    I, on the other hand, turned out fantastically, so it’s probably something you either pick up or you don’t.

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  13. My parents didn’t seem to make any conscious effort to teach me how to be aware of those kinds of things that mattered, and I don’t really remember them doing much of it themselves. BUT–we had a hunting camp in the forest that we would spend weekends at (when it wasn’t hunting season) and somehow I picked up my dad’s reverence for the forest, which had a great deal to me becoming an environmental activist and then a science teacher, which for me is really just a form of activism within the system.

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  14. i knew growing up that my parents made monetary donations to some organizations but we never did volunteering. I turned out all right though I think. I have raised my kids to be socially conscious by leading through example. I volunteer myself and I’ve always talked to my kids about it. As they have gotten older, I have taken them to volunteer with me. It’s something we do as a family. They haven’t always wanted to but even so, I know they learn from the experience. I think you’re doing great and Hank is going to prove it to you 🙂

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