I hope you're not reading this hoping for answers on how to raise ethical children because I have absolutely no clue. I'm just stumbling my way through parenthood. But I have goals that I strive for as a mother. And my biggest intention as a parent? To raise intelligent, happy, well adjusted, and contributing members of society.
Thanks to my Mom and Gran, I have a soft spot for the British Royals. As an American, I know little to nothing about how they are truly perceived and imagine a fair bit of press about them is propaganda. However, I've admired how Princes William and Harry opted for military careers and continue involvement in charities like their mother. The above photo is from a visit to a London homeless center. I can't think of any American celebrity who has served in the military since WWII off the top of my head, can you? And while some Hollywood stars are active in charity work, I don't know enough of their past to say whether that was a quality bestowed from their parents. Princess Diana did well as a mother in this regard - her boys make a difference through their efforts.
Frankly, I don't think I'll know if I'll have done as well until my boys are adults themselves. The ways I try to instill this behavior is through living by example, taking advantage of teachable moments, and encouraging respect of the world and empathy for fellow people. Which is great and all written out in mission statement-like form, but how?
I think kids (mine anyway) learn best through hands on involvement. Hanukkah ends tonight, but it is a perfect example of how I utilize holidays to facilitate a volunteer attitude. We incorporate tzedakah, a concept I talked about in my last post, in every holiday and try to too in everyday life. Whenever gifts are received, as they are this time of year, we donate existing ones and talk about how some kids don't have any toys and it's great to give and make them smile. And one of the eight nights is dedicated to giving back. This year we are getting some items from Heartland SPCA's wishlist. They want to give the animals who have yet to find a forever home toys to play with while they await their new owners. We've planned out a mini shopping spree at PetSmart tomorrow. This is especially meaningful to Slim and Curly because they know we adopted Emmett from this very shelter.
Which leads me to the next way I have managed some success - make a connection. I know that I want to give money to organizations that mean something to me. BzzAgent was generous and sent me a handwritten holiday card with a gift card to make a donation to a charity of my choice via JustGive.org. What an amazing thank you idea, very pay it forward! I searched the charities in the database (which seems limitless) and selected one that means a great deal to me: La Leche League, in honor of my former nurslings. Likewise, I see my guys more excited about volunteering when it means something to them. They like to help when it has to do with other children, or animals, and for a while there, Slim was quite the Captain Planet - all eager to recycle and plant flowers and veggies, thanks to the school garden at his JCC Preschool in Florida.
They genuinely do seem to care about other people. I hope that the foundation I'm attempting to lay will also help them care about making the world a better place one kind action at a time.
What ways do you encourage responsible stewardship of the Earth and charitable actions towards people, animals, and places in your children? I'd love to hear your success stories!