By: Melissa Bienenfeld
Begin with the end in mind. Otherwise known as ‘Habit 2’. In his famous book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Steven Covey describes effective people as those who envision their ideal ending and behave in a way that is aligned with their goals to actualize that ending.
As parents, we are often so caught up in the daily grind, and our brains are consumed with the minutiae of those everyday (important and unimportant) decisions. Like, did I remember to send in the deposit to secure my kid’s spot at summer camp? Do I have enough shabbat leftovers to feed the kids dinner? Is that birthday party going to be nut-free for my allergic kid? Bringing Covey’s wisdom to parenting reminds us that the only way to accomplish our goals as parents, is to first envision the adults we want to raise and work toward that image day in and day out. Thinking about how we teach our kids Jewish values has to extend beyond our day to day activities. It needs to also be a premeditated and concerted effort to instill our most important values into our children.
Recently, one of our donors shared a story with me that blew me away. She told me that as a child, her parents opened up a checking account in her name exclusively for charity. For each birthday or milestone, in addition to buying her a birthday present, they would add some money into the account. Each time she earned money as a teen, they matched any amount she added to her charity account. They printed out checkbooks with her name, and periodically asked her: have you donated any money to charity lately? When she did, her parents were curious about her decision, asking questions like: How did you hear about this organization? What do you love about them? What do you hope they do with this money? As a child, having a checking account in her name and the ability to make decisions regarding that money was both empowering and educational, and those feelings lasted way into adulthood.
If we want to raise charitable and committed Jews, what are we doing to instill those values in our children today?
Thinking about teaching your kids to give Tzedakah? Here are some ideas to get you started:
Get involved! Spend a Sunday volunteering at a local old age home or soup kitchen. While you’re there, bring your kids in for a short discussion with their staff and ask them how else your family could be of assistance to the organization.
Make it a family affair! Have a family meeting about where you should donate money this month. Present the kids with options and have them discuss the worthiness of each cause.
Show them they can! Encourage your kids to think about what items or things they have beyond money that may be of assistance to someone else in need and help them facilitate those donations. It could be games, clothing, toys or even hair!
Celebrate every effort! Print out thank you letters, pictures or anything else that reminds your kids about their accomplishment, and celebrate every single one.
Let them choose their own causes! Open up a MyTzedakah Fund for your teen and allow them to choose the organizations they wish to donate money to.