Why? It is the question that is always on a child’s lips. Yet, when we talk about giving, we all occasionally wonder why we should give. Social scientists have identified six different reasons why we give. Some of these reasons may be more praiseworthy than others. When working to teach children to be generous, it is helpful to know what reasons may motivate them. It is also important to plan any giving activities in such a way that children learn to give for some of the more valuable reasons.
Reasons We Give
Fear – Sometimes we give because we are afraid we will be somehow punished or ridiculed for not giving. This is the worst reason to give. When teaching giving to children we should never imply that a child would be punished or reprimanded for not participating in a giving activity. People who give out of fear stop giving as soon as the cause for fear is gone.
Reward – It is nice to have our giving rewarded, whether through a thank-you note, a chance to wear jeans to school or by winning a prize. Yet, if we learn to only give when there is a reward, our giving becomes self-centered. For this reason classroom competitions or rewards for giving should be limited in school stewardship efforts.
Social Approval – Some people give to impress others. They like to make a show of their giving. This is again a self-centered reason for giving. Individually recognizing certain students for their giving can encourage this kind of giving and discourage those who feel they can never give enough to be recognized.
Need – Giving to a need is a great reason to give. When students are motivated by the needs of others they are often very generous. It is important to educate children about the many needs that exist in our world – whether it is a need for food, water, education, love, healing, repairs, shelter or compassion. The more that children understand all the many needs that exist around them, the more they will realize the importance of their giving. In the face of a major disaster we really can see what a powerful motivator giving to a need can be. However, needs surround us every day and we should be aware of those.
Connection – We will give generously when we feel connected. This is why alums support their own school but would rarely think of giving to another school even if that school had a greater need. We can increase a child’s sense of connection to their school, their parish, their Church and the world by using 1st plural or 2nd person possessive wording rather than generic wording. Talk about “your” parish or “our” Church rather than “the” school or “the” world. This helps build a sense of connection for the student.
Gratitude – Perhaps the greatest reason to give is because we are grateful for all that has been given to us. We feel a need to give. We realize that God has given us blessings to share. This is the true spirit of stewardship. It is the most important giving lesson you can instill in your students. Help them to see that we are all called to “give back.”