I’ve been doing some research to talk about raising kids amid abundance and it’s dawned on me (not for the first time) that the two areas of education most critical to raising independent, self-sufficient kids who demonstrate both self-esteem and responsibility are (1) financial literacy and (2) philanthropy.
That is: kids who can comfortably manage money and are engaged in giving back to the community, however community is defined.
Yet those two arenas of knowledge are never remotely covered in any school course or curriculum, from kindergarten through graduate school.
Wouldn’t it be a good idea for parents to provide their offspring with lessons in both the emotional and transactional reach of money and giving, right alongside the stream of piano lessons and gymnastics, soccer and Little League?
As an example of the kind of rewards such lessons can yield, there’s philanthropist Ann Lurie in Chicago, who regularly appears on the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s annual list of the 50 most generous Americans.
Ann told me: “Long before I had a checkbook for what’s described as ‘transformational philanthropy,’ I learned at a young age that being helpful in some way to someone who needs help can produce a lot of personal gratification.”
She talked about losing her mother when she was only 21 and how her mother’s death had a bearing on her philanthropic outlook. “My mother said I should do a good deed daily, and she gave me some examples. So I started doing that at a fairly young age and I kept track of what I did. It was the high point of my day.”
To this day, says Ann, who walks a lot, she often sees tourists on Michigan Ave. wringing their hands over a map. So she walks up to them and says she lives in the city and offers guidance. Just as she did when she was a kid. She says, “I get so much gratitude from pointing people in the right direction, just like righting things on bigger scale.”
The two powerful lessons about engaging kids at a young age are:
• he or she learns in practical and tangible ways how to be helpful on a daily basis, even as a young kid without power or money; and
• he/she discovers and experiences firsthand the joy and personal gratification that comes with helping others.
It’s the best way to engender purpose, self-esteem, independence, caring, empathy.
Helping others and doing good deeds then turn into lifelong habits.So with a little bit of attention and effort, a parent can accomplish more for a child than most adults ever learn.
Ann says: “Being able to be helpful in some way to someone who needs help, even a simple thing, can produce a lot of personal gratification. It doesn’t mean giving a lot of money.”