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Raising Generous Kids: Teaching the True Spirit of Giving

ages 11 years - 18 years ages 5 years - 11 years ages 6 months - 5 years communication holidays learning Dec 19, 2023

The holiday season is a time of giving and generosity, and as parents, we have a unique opportunity to teach our children the value of helping others.  I touched on this topic in a recent post called 5 Tips to Thrive at the Holidays and listed a number of steps you can take to communicate to your children that while it’s nice to receive gifts at the holidays, your family focus is on giving.  Though verbal communication is essential, nonverbal communication also plays a crucial role in shaping our children's behavior and values.  In this post, we will explore how to effectively model giving during the holiday season using principles from Albert Bandura's social learning theory.  By understanding the power of nonverbal communication and implementing these strategies, we can inspire our children to become compassionate and empathetic individuals.  Read on to be sure that you are modeling generosity for your children during this holiday season.


Lead by Example

Albert Bandura’s work on observational learning has clearly shown that children learn by observing their parents, and the holiday season provides the perfect opportunity to model giving through nonverbal cues.  Show your children the importance of giving by engaging in acts of kindness, such as volunteering at a local charity or donating toys to those in need.  Your actions will speak louder than words and leave a lasting impression on your children.  


You can even implement this strategy at home by offering to pick up one of your child’s chores this week just to help them out or by highlighting some of the work you do to support them every day.  For example, if your child asks you to make them a snack, you might put extra flair on your response, “Sure thing, sweetie, I’m happy to help get you a snack to be helpful.”  As parents, we’re constantly engaging in acts of kindness throughout the day; sometimes you just need to put a little emphasis on that to help children see your actions as generosity.  


Express Empathy

Nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions and body language, can convey empathy and compassion.  When engaging in acts of giving, make sure to display genuine emotions of empathy towards those you are helping.  This will teach your children the importance of understanding and caring for others' needs.  For example, let’s say a friend of yours comes over to chat, or you’re engaging in conversation with another parent during a playdate, and they are having a tough time.  Your child may observe you listening compassionately and offering genuine support.  When you propose bringing them dinner next week or having their child over for another play date to give them some free time, your child will see you doing things for others to be generous and caring.  They actually store that learning in their developing brains for later use when they have an opportunity to show generosity.


Involve Your Children

Encourage your children to actively participate in giving activities.  Whether it's selecting toys to donate or helping wrap gifts for a charitable organization, involving them in the process will strengthen their understanding of the joy that comes from giving.  Use nonverbal cues, such as smiles and positive gestures (like a thumbs up), to reinforce their efforts and show appreciation for their involvement.  We like to do a lot of homemade gifts as a family during the holidays to take the focus off of having the new hot toy in our commercialized society and because we feel that homemade gifts are generally more meaningful and show a greater level of caring.  Whether prepping food or making crafts, the kids can be an integral part of creating thoughtful gifts during the holidays.


Highlight the Impact

Be sure to highlight the impact of giving to your children.  When engaging in acts of kindness, take the time to explain to your children how their actions are making a difference in someone else's life.  It’s challenging for young children to take another person’s perspective, so be patient if they don’t fully understand these concepts now.  You might ask them to imagine they were in another person’s shoes; describe their day and then ask how it would make them feel if someone did the generous thing you did to offer them support.  You can also say, “We’re very fortunate to have as much as we do, and we can help others who are not as fortunate.  I feel good helping them because they really needed our support.”


Praise Participation

After engaging in giving activities, be sure to use ample positive reinforcement.  Hugs and high-fives go a long way to make someone feel special and appreciated for their generous behavior.  If the kids are helping to prepare holiday gifts, you can praise them at every stage of the process.  For example, you might say, “Yay, thanks for helping me with this project,” and hug them.  Later on, you might say, “I got those sweet packages mailed today to all of our friends and family,” and offer them a high five, reminding them how helpful they were with the project.  They feel good each time you acknowledge their participation, and they begin to associate generous behavior with positive feelings - that’s the beauty of positive reinforcement.


Take-Home Message

Modeling giving during the holiday season using nonverbal communication is a powerful way to instill values of compassion and empathy in our children.  By leading by example, expressing empathy, involving our children, highlighting the impact of your acts of giving, and praising participation, we can create lasting impressions and inspire them to become generous individuals.  Let this holiday season be a time of not only receiving but also giving as we shape the future generation through the power of nonverbal communication.  What can you do this week to model giving for your children?


Nonverbal communication and modeling giving behavior are part of the Communication category of my 5 C’s parenting framework (click here to learn more about the 5 C’s).  To view more posts in this category, use the category search menu on the right of your screen.  Keep up the good work on your amazing parenting journey!

P.S. Be sure to download my freebie called 5 Tips to Thrive as a Family at the Holidays! for some actionable strategies to help make this holiday season a success!


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Amazing parenting is not about always saying
and doing the right thing and raising perfect children.  It’s about becoming intentional in your parenting and proactive in learning skills to help you parent more effectively in a way that fits best for your unique parent-child dynamics.

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