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Unauthorized Parenting Fail Story About Charitable Giving

October 15, 2019

Katie Berkedal, Program DirectorBy Katie Berkedal, Program Director

So, I was scheduled to write an article today about the top 5 ways to engage your children in charitable giving. Naturally, the first thing I did was Google what other bloggers have written about the subject. I kept coming across the advice to have children donate their clothes and toys, which reminded me of a giant parenting fail I committed recently (or epic parenting win, depending on your viewpoint). So, I’m gonna go ahead and share that story with you instead!

Let me first introduce you to my children; Miya is an 11-year-old self-proclaimed “Visco Girl” who loves nature, reading, and death stares. Leo is my chummy 9-year-old who loves attention more than a Golden Retriever and is training to be a third-generation terrible joke teller (generations one and two are my dad and I). We think we’re funny, so whatever.

Here’s the parenting fail story:

My kids are spoiled. Both have birthdays between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so they get more gifts at year-end than we do at LCF. Consequently, their closet space fills up quickly and their rooms are constantly a disaster zone. I hate clutter. So, I occasionally freak out and demand the kids clean their rooms. I give them each a couple of paper grocery bags to fill with things we can donate. Usually what I get in return is half a bag filled with miscellaneous junk like Happy Meal toys and socks from trampoline playgrounds. Then we argue about how they never even play with half the stuff in their closets.

Then I had an idea. What if I paid them per pound to get rid of toys? My husband and I had already initiated a “dollar jar” system at our house. When each of us breaks certain rules, we owe a dollar to the jar. That worked well for about a day, then the kids ran out of money. I thought, if I pay them to get rid of stuff, they’d pad their wallets with cash I could make them pay back to the dollar jar later! And the best part? The dollar jar is for charitable giving.

I brought a dozen grocery bags upstairs, told the kids I’d give them $1 per pound of toys, books, and clothes they’d be willing to donate, and off they disappeared. A couple hours and over 200 pounds of stuff later… I had to cap them off. Oh. My. Gosh. It worked.

My hubby filled the Outback with bags and bags and bags of goods and donated them. Win.

The kids had super clean rooms and STILL DO. Win.

I now have two kids with enough money to add a dollar to the jar in payment for every talk back, lie and hit. Win.

With all of these wins, why do I feel like I did something wrong? I think I might have made charitable giving a punishment and a reward. I’m sure I’ll screw up plenty of more things by the time they’re grown and gone, but here’s the thing:

Charitable giving is important to my husband and I and our kids witness that. Volunteering and helping others is also highly valued and our children see us committed to that. There’s probably a hundred ideas bloggers offer to parents to help them engage children in charitable giving, but I think the best way is simply for us parents to model to them that we care about our community and helping others.

I’ll add a couple dollars to the jar for publicly sharing embarrassing private family information on this website.