We all hope to raise caring, compassionate children. One way to accomplish this important task is to teach our children the value of community service. Here are some tips from Molle Toyota to get you started:

Set the example

Common sense dictates that parents who are involved in community service are more likely to involve their children in community service. Conversely, expecting your children to serve the community while you’re too busy with work or other commitments isn't effective. Your kids need to see you do it first.

Start the discussion

Get excited about community service and start talking about its benefits. This is not the time to preach—it’s the time to talk about how rewarding and satisfying community service is. Your kids don’t even need to know why you’re discussing it. Talk about what needs your children see in the community and what could be done about it. For example, maybe the fence at the local park needs to be painted, and maybe you and your kids could buy some paint and brushes and paint it together next Saturday.

Select a project

Pick a kid-sized community project and involve the entire family. Appropriate projects include park cleanups, nursing home visits, food bank shelf-stocking, or helping out at the local animal shelter. Letting your children help choose the project increases the chances of them enjoying it. For community project ideas, you can contact your local Boy or Girl Scout office, area churches, or even your child’s school.

Participate in Other Altruistic Endeavors

You don’t need to spend eight hours cleaning gum off park benches to benefit the community. Teach children the joys of serving the community by donating old clothes and toys to local charities, donating food to homeless shelters or putting quarters in the Salvation Army bucket.

Enjoy the Benefits of Community Service

Some of the benefits of volunteering are obvious-- cleaner neighborhoods and less suffering, for example. However, community benefits are sometimes outweighed by the personal benefits derived from doing the service:

  1. Children and adults who do volunteer work have higher self-esteem.
  2. Volunteering promotes a healthier lifestyle. Individuals who do volunteer work are more likely to be active and have less stress in their life. Once again, there are few guarantees in life: one of them is that performing acts of service will put you in the frame of mind to solve your own problems, therefore reducing stress.
  3. There is a high correlation between individuals who organize and participate in community service and millionaires. Most successful people gave to the community long before they received riches.
  4. Those who volunteer make friends, network with like-minded individuals and improve their talents.

Although many schools offer academic credit for volunteering, this should not be the only motivation for giving back to the community. Children should serve because they have a desire to help others of their own volition without expecting anything in return. The extra credit should just be an added benefit.