Giving Back: Starting a Family Tradition (Part 1)

Rosy Cheeks in the SnowAs my children get older, I want to teach them to give back. I want giving back to be a part of their lives.

When they were little, we would talk about people who had very little. I would show them that I was donating to the needy by placing an envelop of money in the church collection. I would take them to buy mittens for the “Christmas glove tree.” I hoped that giving back would sink in, but I wasn’t sure. I remember a time when one of my children was upset about buying a toy for a needy child. The child couldn’t understand why I was not buying the toy for her. Other times I shopped for our adopted family by myself to minimize the concerns expressed by the children. Truly my children have everything they could ever want. But for a little one, seeing mommy buy a toy for someone other than them doesn’t make any sense.

To keep the subject of giving back a positive one, I waited til my children were a little older. All three children were about 9 or 10 when I talked about them giving away their toys. As you would imagine from reading the first paragraph of this post, the idea of giving away THEIR toys was a traumatic one.

When they were little, they simply couldn’t grasp this concept. I would do monthly donations to American Veterans, Purple Heart, or Goodwill, but I rarely let my children see that I was donating their toys. I was a ninja…a toy ninja…swooping in to the playroom to look for neglected toys and games. I had a system that more or less worked. I would survey the playroom every month or two. Look to see what toys were getting played with and which were not. I would “under cover of darkness” move the “toys no one has played with in months” to the storage room to “hang out” for a bit. Once the toy was in the storage room for 6 months to a year without one of them asking for it, I would decide whether to consign the toy or donate the toy.

Now you might wonder why I don’t just donate all their toys. I’m still doing consignment sales today. Well, I paid a lot of money for the toys or the toys were gifts from generous grandparents. I know that some of the toys are in very good condition and can be sold at my local consignment store. I’ve not had great success or even any success with yard sales…although I’m in a Facebook online yard sale group for my town that is ROCKING. I have sold close to $1,000 through the Facebook group. I’ve even sold stuff on eBay. The money I earn from consignment sales and online yard sales goes back in to the household budget. We use the “toy” money to buy other toys, games, or to go out to dinner and a movie. Selling the kids’ toys is like giving back to my family. The rest of the toys not consigned are bagged up and put out for the monthly donation truck pickup.

Parenting Tip:

  1. Put all donations in black trash bags, so that a little child won’t see a stuffed bear and wail “Why is my bear in a bag?? I want my bear back!” This has happened to me. Shudders.
  2. If like me you only have white garbage bags, then ONLY put donation bags at the end of your driveway when the children are on the school bus. Trust me…I never schedule a donation for a day off school or the weekend. My children have laser vision and can spot a toy truck poking out of a garbage bag in no time at all.

By the time each child was 9 or 10, I let them choose which toys to donate and which they wanted to consign. I wanted them to be on board with giving back. Child #1 was more or less done with toys by that age, so getting her on board wasn’t difficult. Child #2 and #3 needed a bit more coaxing, but gradually came on board. Often, I let the kids keep the money earned from consignment sales or online yard sales.

By middle school, my older children participated in service projects through school. I wanted them to help others. Give back to their communities. Our school system has 6th, 7th, and 8th graders do service projects in middle school so that they earn the required service hours needed for high school graduation. When I heard about the service requirement I was happy. Serving and helping others is always a good thing. Except, the projects that the middle schoolers did were a little less service oriented than I would have liked. They sent cards to the service men and women. They raised money at a cancer bowl-a-thon. They cleaned up the courtyard garden at school. These activities were often squeezed in to only one or two days per school year. For the rest of the year, the service requirement was not mentioned or required. I knew that all of us could do more to give back.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Giving Back: Starting a Family Tradition!

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