The Mindful Merchant

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Charity begins at home…with a little nudge January 12, 2010

Filed under: children,community,parenting — MindfulMerchant @ 12:20 pm


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I did not birth a little Jane Goodall or David Suzuki.  This was evident years ago when I pointed out an ant carrying a giant crumb to my 3 year old.  As we bent down examining the little creature I remember thinking “I am a good Mummy – teaching her to love nature”. That stupid smug thought came to an abrupt halt when she crushed the ant into the sole of her Dora shoe. Splat!  Clearly, the lesson I was trying to impart went unnoticed.

I stole the idea of a charitable birthday from my daughter’s friend. A few years ago, so inspired by a talk at school about Unicef, Marin asked her friends to make a small donation instead of gifts. (In case you are wondering…she came up with this all on her own)  Impressive, no?  So we began talking about birthday parties long before the day. Our girls are showered with gifts from both sides of our large families; they do not need more toys from their school chums. Slowly the girls considered the idea of using their party to help other people.

Gillian decided instead of presents her friends could, if they wanted to, give a small donation to the Ottawa Humane Society. (She loves dogs, cats and little critters – gone are the days of ant stomping!)  The wonderful thing was that her friends donated money from their own piggy banks, lots of quarters, loonies and change. Gillian collected $81 and felt fantastic walking into the shelter with her birthday “gifts”.

Sarah needed more encouragement. She wanted MORE presents. After planning her super fun party (and a little nudge) she decided to collect cans for our local food bank. Walking into the food bank with bags full of food had a big impact.  She was beaming from ear to ear.  Both girls are already talking about the charity they will help at next year’s birthday.

Teaching kids the importance of giving back to the community is more than just talking.  My Parents, Uncles and Aunts volunteered in the community all the time. We learned it in school too.  Our children see my husband and I help neighbours, fundraise and volunteer. Now that the girls are older, we help as a family.   Reading books about different experiences can help children grasp difficult subjects like illness, poverty and overcoming hardships.  Despite this idyllic parenting babble, we still remind ourselves and the girls to think about others.  I wonder if Jane Goodall or David Suzuki’s parents had to do this too…

How do you teach your children about charity?



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8 Responses to “Charity begins at home…with a little nudge”

  1. 5kidswdisabilities Says:

    What a great way to raise children. I teach my children with disabilities about giving to others by having them volunteer.
    Check out my blog at is a gift you give yourself.

  2. Your volunteer experiences and helping extend far beyond my small examples. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story.

  3. hannah78 Says:

    That is great! Our society is too consumerist and selfish, so its great to see you trying to teach your children about charity and giving!

    I don’t have any kids, but try to give what I can.:)

  4. Finola Says:

    I love this idea, and was just curious whether people respected the idea, or whether they brought gifts for your child on top of the charitable donations. We have attended birthday parties where the invitation specified no gifts, but everyone still brought one. Just curious, and congratulations to your daughters.

    • It is funny you ask that…almost everyone respected the idea. One friend (a close friend) dropped off a gift earlier in the day for opening later. I kind of got the feeling from a few parents that they thought it was “too bad for our kids” and that we were pressuring them to do it. Honestly, if you saw the heaps of gifts they get from our families (which is another issue for a future post!) they really aren’t missing out. That would be uncomfortable showing up at a party and everyone ignored the request and brought a gift. Fun party I bet. 🙂

  5. I don’t have kids but when I was around 8 or 9 without telling my parents (we lived in a super safe neighborhood) I went to my neighbors and collected cans for the local food bank. My mom was a bit shocked when she saw the cans and was glad to know I told the neighbors what I was doing with the cans and didn’t just tell them I wanted food or something lol.

  6. I like that your parents didn’t have to convince you to be charitable. That is rare (I think). Great story Lisa.

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