Balloons and crepe paper streamers filled the room at the rustic lodge. A “Happy Birthday” banner stretched above the fireplace. The room was brimming with people, old and young, who were celebrating the birthday of a dear friend. Tired from dancing, I sat back and watched people in the room interact with each other, telling stories and laughing at memories. Children played and hollered with delight as they raced between the grown-ups’ legs, engaged in a game of tag. Tired of dancing, I sat back and watched the kids play. I wondered how each of these kids would grow up to make a difference in others’ lives. Then I began to reflect on how raising kids to be contributors to the world around them was so crucial.
As I looked around the room, I began to notice that there were two different types of children at the party. The first group of kids were active and interacting with those around them. They picked up their empty plates, engaged in a game of tag, and taught others how to play ball. Other kids chose to curl up in a corner, absorbed in a game on their cell phones, empty cake plates nearby, and ignoring the world around them. While both groups of kids were respectful and friendly, there was a stark difference between the two. The first half of the kids had the attitude of contributors; the other half had consumer attitudes.
What are Contributors and Consumers?
What does it mean to be a contributor rather than a consumer? Consumers tend to take on the perspective of expecting something in return for their actions. They look for ways that something will benefit them. Over time, this can create a self-serving attitude that leaves little room for showing care and investing in others. A consumer’s story revolves around their needs, how they can advance themselves, and what they get out of life.
On the other hand, contributors have shifted their focus from themselves and their needs to the needs of others. Contributors tend to do things without expecting any benefit in return, try to understand others’ needs, and overall tend to be more empathic and caring. Contributors recognize the effort others have made to pour into their lives, and they are intent on paying it forward to others. They want to be actively involved in the world around them and make a positive difference.
Raising Kids to Be Contributors
God calls each of us to be contributors to the lives of others and in His kingdom. For example, Paul instructs us in Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.” Raising kids to have a contributor mindset from an early age will encourage them to have this attitude for the rest of their life. Teaching them a contributor mindset will help them to learn, grow individually and in relationships, and make a difference in the lives of those around them.
10 Ways To Raise Kids To Be Contributors
Here are ten ways that you can teach your kids how to be contributors rather than consumers.
1. Have an Attitude of Gratitude
One of the key pieces to having a contributor mindset is first having an attitude of gratitude. We can demonstrate gratefulness for the things that we have in our own lives and the people who are a part of our lives. Our children will learn from our attitudes as parents and will reflect them in their own lives. It is so critical that we lead by example when raising our kids to have an attitude of gratitude about everything and everyone we have.
2. Rolling Credits
Take a few minutes and look at the people who made a difference, or are continuing to make a difference, in your life. You could envision the list of people as the rolling credits in a movie. Each person has had a specific role or contribution to your life that has made you who you are today.
Your kids will also have their own rolling credits of contributors to their life. Sit down with your kids and make a list of those people. Then, together, find a way to show your gratitude toward those people in your life. Maybe you throw your own rolling credits party, popcorn included! Or send a special thank you to some of those people on your list. You can find some ideas here.
3. Get Them Involved in Community
Get your kids involved in the community. This might include volunteering, clubs, sports, or church. John Donne wrote, “No man is an island.” The idea here is that our kids can interact with others and create close bonds with them. Being a part of a community helps give them a sense of being part of something bigger than themselves. It helps teach them that they are part of God’s kingdom and play an important role in His kingdom.
4. Give Them Opportunities for Critical Thinking
Be sure to engage your child’s critical thinking skills as often as you can. Instead of issuing directions and telling them how to approach a certain situation, ask them what they think they should do. Then, based on their answer, you can guide them into making wise decisions. This will strengthen their critical thinking skills and help them to better respond to situations that require those skills later in life. Having good critical thinking skills is an important part of leadership skills and is something that they can teach others to learn as well.
5. Teach Others a Skill
If your kids know a skill — such as playing an instrument, is good at a particular sport or hobby — encourage them to teach those skills to others. Teaching others is a fantastic way for them to make a difference in another child’s life and helps them develop their own skills further at the same time.
6. Acts of Service
Have your child get involved by volunteering for community service activities or finding opportunities to serve others. There are so many ways for kids to serve! Whether it’s gathering in to beautify a park or helping a neighbor with their groceries, or gardening, they will feel a sense of accomplishment when the goal is completed. Acts of service are a great way to contribute to the lives of others who may not be in your child’s circle and is a chance for them to meet some new friends. Raising kids to do acts of service for others is a great way for them to get in the habit of helping others.
7. Giving Gifts
Giving gifts and being generous to others can be a great way to encourage someone. Whether it’s making a card or craft to brighten someone’s day, the possibilities for encouraging someone can be endless. Gifts don’t have to be expensive to be thoughtful and make a difference in a person’s day. In many cases, it truly is the thought that counts.
8. Spend Time With Others
Teach your kids the value of spending time with other people. Put down the cell phone, turn off the TV, and spend time together. Choose a fun activity to do, or a craft to create, or just spend time talking. Spending time with others is a great way for your kids to show that they care, invest in others’ lives, and form deep connections with others.
9. The Value of Chores
Whether you are four or forty-four, chores are usually not a favorite activity. However, cleaning up after oneself is a necessary life skill, and actually, God made us for work. Create an atmosphere of teamwork surrounding your household chores and select some age-appropriate chores for your kids to do. This will make them feel a part of the family team and help them create healthy habits of tidiness and chipping in to help.
10. Create a Contributor Journal
Everyone needs a little encouragement. One way to leave a note of encouragement for someone in your family is by creating contributor journals. These are journals for every family member, usually kept in a central location in the house, such as the kitchen or living room. Everyone in the family has access to them and can write or draw in them. Flipping through a contributor journal, one might find Bible verses, quotes, or notes of encouragement from others in the family. Starting a contributor journal in your family is a great way to teach your child to notice others and encourage them.
These 10 ways can help us raise our kids to make a difference in others’ lives and contribute to the world around us. What other ways can you think of to raise your kids to be contributors?
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