Tips on Raising Do-Gooders

They say that children are inherently compassionate and have a natural tendency to share, which is perfect for parents who want their children to grow up to be empathetic, charitable adults who make a conscious effort to positively contribute to society. While charities and nonprofits benefit from children and teens’ generosity and effort, philanthropy also has been scientifically proven to improve a child’s development. President and founder of Dollar Smart Kids Enterprises, Inc. Nancy Phillips explains that once your children see that they have the capacity to help others, whether it be in their community or across the globe, they’ll realize that they possess the power to make a positive difference in the world, boosting their self-esteem and self-confidence.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are a couple tips in guiding your children to become philanthropists.

Happy family encouraging giving at a donation center
Happy family encouraging giving at a donation center

Introduce them to charities early on. The best time to start talking about donations and giving is between the ages of three to five, or their formative years. This is when you can discuss the importance of money and how it can help others, even if they aren’t old enough for an allowance.

Help children that are similar in age as your own. Volunteering at an orphanage, helping students at an afterschool program, or even exposing them to child sponsorships in war-torn countries will allow your kids to imagine themselves in the impoverished or at-risk children’s shoes, therefore developing a deeper understanding of the world’s injustices.

Get friends and family involved. To make volunteering a more enjoyable experience, turn it into an opportunity for family bonding or invite your children’s friends along. As parenting expert and educational psychologist Dr. Michele Borba said, “The more people in the group, the more energy they have to make a difference.”

Plan a volunteer vacation. Author of Raising Charitable Children Carol Weisman suggests that families use their time off with a volunteer vacation so that the whole family can dedicate a good amount of time for a good cause while also being productive and spending quality time with the family.

Overcoming Sibling Rivalry

Overcoming Sibling Rivalry

By Mary L. Hamilton

A favorite family story recalls the torment inflicted on our youngest brother. His white-blonde hair, sparkly blue eyes and wide, toothy smile melted hearts everywhere we went, but of course, the rest of us thought he was spoiled. We took every opportunity to impress on him his lack of status in the family hierarchy.

The school pictures Mother displayed on the fireplace mantel came in gray cardboard frames that were open on three sides, making it easy to slip the pictures in and out. I’d pull out my brother’s picture and slide it back in upside down–or even backwards so only the white showed. It never failed to upset him.

Sibling rivalry was alive and well between us back then, but somewhere along the way, I developed a deep affection and admiration for my youngest brother. Those childish jealousies and ill feelings don’t have to grow with us into adulthood, haunting our relationships forever. With my siblings and my own children, I believe three actions helped promote a sense of camaraderie rather than rivalry.

  1. Laugh together. Keep a sense of humor. Whenever our daughter used the bathroom, our youngest son liked to crouch outside the door and pretend to place a fast food order in the air space beneath the door. It deeply irritated her, but we often explained to her how funny it was to see her little brother on his hands and knees saying, “Cheeseburger!” under the door. Now, the mere utterance of the word sends us all into gales of laughter.
  2. Encourage and recognize thoughtfulness. Whether the kids are sharing a cookie, finding a lost toy or giving a spontaneous hug, the simplest acts of kindness can be used to point out “What a nice brother!” or “See how much your sister loves you!” Such phrases not only help children see what love looks like, they also encourage more such acts of kindness and giving.
  3. Recognize each child’s personal strengths. Rarely are two children equally gifted in the same area, and their interests or gifts are usually identifiable at an early age. At 18 months, our athletic oldest son was bobbing a basketball in the toilet, and our youngest figured out how to get on the Internet in the early days when it was new and required several steps. Our daughter’s servant heart became obvious through her continual pretend game of waitressing. Sometimes, it’s difficult for children to see where they excel, especially when it’s not always in subjects taught at school or on a sports team. Pointing out your children’s unique gifts and strengths dampens the temptation to compete with each other.

In my parents’ home, graduation pictures hung on the wall eventually replaced those school pictures on the mantel. Today, there are few people I’d rather spend time with than my siblings. We still laugh about finding those graduation pictures mysteriously hanging upside down—all except the one showing the teen with the sparkly blue eyes and the wide, toothy grin.

7-21-15   Mary L. Hamilton grew up at a youth camp in southern Wisconsin, much like the setting for her Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series. While raising her own three        children, she was active in her church’s youth ministry, including serving as a camp counselor for a single week (once was enough!). Mary is an award-winning    writer, a graduate of Long Ridge Writer’s Group and a member of ACFW. When not writing, she enjoys knitting, reading and being outdoors. Connect with Mary  on her website: and on Facebook:

What To Do With Kids in Summer?

Summertime, that magical time and place where kids are released from the fetters of school and tossed out into the wild to while away the lazy, hazy days. We spent many hours exploring our neighborhood, playing with friends, visiting relatives (usually after a long, hot car trip!), and figuring out that you really can’t die from boredom.

These days, kids are more apt to go from one camp to another or one enriching activity after another. Sometimes, that’s by necessity because of work schedules, but more times than not, it’s because parents don’t know what to do with their children when school is out.

Of course, parents don’t need to do anything, not really. I always encourage parents to have as much fun as they want with their children—only as long as it’s as fun for Mom and Dad as it is for the kids. Here are three ways to balance between too much and too little with your kids this summer.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Figure out your tolerance level. Rather than feel guilty for not doing enough, work on shelving the guilt and enjoying the activities you accomplish instead. If you love to go places all the time, then load up the kiddies and take off for adventures on a weekly basis. But if you don’t? Then pick a few things to scatter throughout your summer and enjoy those outings to the fullest.

Make learning part of everyday. So many times, parents panic when summer rolls around, thinking we have to whip out the math worksheets or Junior will forget everything he’s learned. I suggest using everyday things instead, sort of “stealth” math and science and reading and writing. A trip to the grocery store is great for practicing math (how much will we save with these coupons? what is the lowest price on dried beans?). Encourage science experiments outside (can you really fry an egg on the sidewalk when the temperature is in the upper 90s?). Make the library a frequent stop for new books and participate in summer reading programs.

Build in “down time.” Give kids plenty of opportunity to utter the phrase, “I’m bored.” Boredom leads to all sorts of discoveries, shores up imaginations and allows kids to dream and wonder about a whole host of things. Studies have shown that letting kids have nothing to do for long stretches of time—nothing formal, that is, like organized sports, camps, etc.—reinvigorates their brains and gives them time to grow and stretch.

Until next time


Summertime Blues

School is ending across the country, and with it, wails of distress from parents as they scramble for ways to fill their children’s time during the hot, sticky days of summer. I’ve heard numerous parents express dismay at the end of school, and have felt in the minority that I don’t feel as miserable as they do about having my children around all the time.
For families with both parents working, or for single parent households, I can well understand the need to find adequate childcare or camps in the summer. But for families that have one parent at home, summer is a wonderful opportunity for you and your children—and it doesn’t have to mean you are responsible for entertaining them day in and day out.
Fighting chants of “I’m bored,” or “I don’t know what to do,” or “I have nothing to do,” can be downright exhausting if you hear those or similar phrases as soon as your little darlings wake in the morning. But do not despair! I have a solution that, if followed to the letter, will ensure a summer filled with innovation and inspiration, all with just a little bit of work on your part.
First, draw up a list of things your child or children can do on their own. This can be as simple as play with a certain toy or read a book. Tailor it to the age of your child. Write down as many things as you can think of that require a minimum (read barely any) assistance from you. Type it up and label it “Things to Do When You’re Bored” or something equally catchy.
Note: Your summer will go smoother if you limit electronic screen time (TV and video/DVD watching, computer, and hand-held electronic games, etc.). Studies have shown—and, if you have ever interrupted a child involved in one of those activities—that screen time is highly addictive. Better to encourage your children in other pursuits in their leisure time. This is not a popular view, I know, but I think you’ll find it’s worth the hassle to get your kids disconnected for most of the summer.
Second, write down a list of extra chores not included in the daily or weekly list for your children. Cut into slips of paper with one chore on each slip, fold and place into a jar or other container and label “Chore Jar.”
Third, on the first day of summer vacation, sit down your kids after breakfast and hand them the “Things to Do When You’re Bored” list. Tell them that this is what they can do when they’re feeling bored or have nothing to do. Inform them that if anyone utters the words “I’m bored,” or “I have nothing to do,” or any variation thereof, that child picks a chore to do from the Chore Jar. That chore must be completed immediately to the parent’s satisfaction. Failure to do so will result in being confined to his or her room for the rest of the day and to bed after supper. This is called “making them an offer they can’t refuse.”
Fourth, follow through. When I introduced this last summer to my two older girls, they immediately said they were bored to see what kind of chores were in the Chore Jar. After completing a particular onerous task, I didn’t hear “I’m bored,” the entire summer.
For those of you who need ideas, my booklet Boredom Busters has dozens of ideas for children, as well as some chore ideas for the Chore Jar. Boredom Busters is available on Kindle and Smashwords (for the Nook, iPad, and other e-reader devices, as well as in a PDF) for only 99 cents. Leave a comment under this post for a chance to win a copy of the Boredom Busters.
Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and editor, and author of Hired@Home, a guide to unlocking women’s work-from-home potential now available on Kindle. Her stories have appeared in previous Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Sarah lives in Virginiawith her husband and four children. Visit her online at, where she blogs about working from home.

Do Not Disturb the Family Peace

As I sat down at my computer to write a blog post for this site, I heard a ruckus upstairs. Sounds of screaming that didn’t sound quite so happy. With four children between the ages of 3 and 9, one gets used to a certain amount of loudness, but my mother’s radar detected something different in these sounds.
I followed the source to my girls’ room, where the 9-year-old was attempting to drag the 7-year-old out of the room because she “wanted her room to herself.” Never mind that the room was both of theirs, she wanted to be alone. I separated the pair for a cooling off period, thinking that a 9-year-old was a little too young to pull a Greta Garbo.
Sibling conflict can be overwhelming, especially when you have a mix of ages and genders. Most of the time, my children do play well together with a minimum of fuss. But it’s inevitable that conflict will raise its ugly head at times.
The way you as a parent handle sibling clashes can help—or hinder—how your children interact with each other. Here’s how we handle sibling clashes.
We decided that we would not play referee. It was not our job to intervene when the wailing started out of sight. We would not judge who was right and who was wrong. No assigning roles of victim or villain for us. If we happened to actually see the wrongdoing, that was another thing. But we would not participate after the fact in their disagreements. We would give kisses, but would not encourage tattling.
To enforce this, we created a chart and stuck it to the refrigerator. Titled “Do Not Disturb the Family Peace,” the chart outlined what would earn every child a ticket:
  1. Keep it down. (Do not become too boisterous or noisy.)
  2. No hurting each other. (Do not hit, punch, push or otherwise maim your siblings.)
  3. No tattling. (Do not become a snitch on your siblings.)
Clipped to the fridge beside this chart are three tickets, pieces of laminated paper. For each infraction, the entire group loses one ticket. If all three tickets are lost, the entire group goes directly to their rooms for the rest of the day and directly to bed after supper.
This eliminates the problem of trying to figure out what happened. It doesn’t really matter who was at fault, does it? What this system is doing is putting the resolution of conflict onto the children, where it belongs.
When I heard my two girls going at it, I simply walked in, said they were disturbing the family peace and directed one to get a ticket. No arguing, no drama. Then I walked out.
So far, in the two months we’ve had this system in place, they have yet to lose all three tickets. And if they do, I’ll enjoy a nice day without kids underfoot, and a more relaxing evening with my husband.
Now, would it be terrible of me to wish they would lose all three tickets one day….?
Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and editor, and author of Hired@Home, a guide to unlocking women’s work-from-home potential now available on Kindle. Her stories have appeared in previous Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Sarah lives in Virginiawith her husband and four children. Visit her online at, where she blogs about working from home.

Merry-Go-Round: Old Fashioned Fun

With March proving to be delightful in the weather department, we’ve been visiting playgrounds recently. On one visit, for nearly the entire half hour or so we were there, my three oldest children played on one piece of equipment: the merry-go-round. Laughter, squeals of pretend terror, sheer joy on the faces of the children hanging on for dear life as other kids ran as fast as they could in the grooved circle—what could be a better picture of childhood?
Nearly every non-preschooler who came to the playground made a beeline directly for the merry-go-round. I sat on a nearby bench and watched the interplay between the kids, and was heartened to see everyone getting along. Chants of “Push us, push us,” were answered by someone leaping off and racing around. When my youngest son (age 3) got on and then decided he wanted off shortly after the rotations began, a kid yelled, “Stop, someone wants to get off,” and they slowed to allow my son to slid off.
What other piece of equipment can teach children how to get along with one another better than a merry-go-round? There’s so many life lessons to be learned while spinning until you’re dizzy.
But we adults have over-reacted to the merry-go-round’s potential harm by suing playground equipment manufacturers, and cities and schools that had parks with merry-go-rounds installed. Sure some kids have gotten hurt on merry-go-rounds, but what I find more disturbing is our increasing desire to wrap our children in cotton wool to avoid any booboos or skinned knees (hence the tendency to make them wear knee and elbow pads while bike riding or rollerblading).
No one wants our children to get hurt psychically, and we should put a stop to obviously dangerous things. On the other hand, giving children the freedom to spread their wings and fly around the world on a merry-go-round can be wonderful to their own development.
Let them see the world outside is to be explored and conquered, not feared and avoided. Let them experience the joys and pains of mastering things like bike riding and monkey bars. Let them view the world from a different perspective by climbing trees or hanging upside from the swing set.
Sure, you might have to stock up on band-aids and kiss a few more hurts, but if you can resist the urge to place your children inside a bubble, you might just find out that they are tougher than you think. Hearing your children describe their outdoor adventures can be a priceless experience in itself.
So keep the cotton wool safely tucked away, and go find a park with a merry-go-round, but I’d avoid jumping on board unless you have a stomach of iron. Some things are better left to the kids.
Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and editor, and author of Hired@Home, a guide to unlocking women’s work-from-home potential now available on Kindle. Her stories have appeared in previous Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Sarah lives in Virginia with her husband and four children. Visit her online at, where she blogs about working from home.