Here are 10 ways to encourage compassion and generosity in your kids:
1. Teach empathy
Studies show that kids whose parents help them identify emotions display more concern for others and are more likely to share. As you're reading books together, talk about the emotions the characters are feeling. And help your child understand the effects of her own actions on others. Ask a young child how she thinks it made someone else feel when she shared a toy, for instance (and when she didn't). If an older child squabbles with a friend, ask her to consider the situation from the other person's point of view.
2. Read stories about generosity
In The Rainbow Fish, a beautiful fish gives away its scales so other fish can also be beautiful. In The Quiltmaker's Gift, a quiltmaker teaches a greedy king a lesson about giving. Books like these set an example for kids to follow, says Price, and offer parents an opening to talk about their family values without lecturing. For older kids, Price recommends young adult biographies of social activists, such as Jane Goodall and Malala Yousafzai.
3. Practice random acts of kindness
With your child, leave drawings or kind notes on a sibling's or a neighbor's door. Send letters or cookies to cousins or friends. Leave encouraging messages in shopping carts. It's a sweet—and fun—way to create a culture of compassion in your family.
4. Explain what you support
Research by the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University found that children whose parents talk with them about where and why they give are 20% more likely to donate to charity than those whose parents simply role-model generosity.
What's more, you should be specific about the benefits of your support, says Debra Mesch, director of the institute. So don't write a check after the kids are in bed, and don't simply say you're donating because "it's the right thing to do." Instead, explain that the money you're contributing to a hospital will help sick kids get better, for example. I also read my favorite charities' newsletters with my son, and we go to their fundraising events together.
5. Develop a habit of giving
Provide your child with an allowance (or let him earn money with chores) and then store the money in containers labeled Save, Spend and Give. My son contributes 10% of his allowance to his give jar each week and, when he's amassed about $30, he decides where he wants to donate it. “By letting kids choose a cause they're interested in, it feels more personal and they'll feel more of a connection," says Mesch.