How to Raise Radically Engaged Kids

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

By Laura Tarbutton

Most parents want to raise their children to be considerate, empathic, and socially-conscious members of our global community. But how can you instill such character in your little ones within a culture that often values competition, ego, and material accumulation? How do you nourish an intrinsic desire to help others without it feeling like a dutiful chore? Furthermore, how do you help children move beyond the stages of awareness and emotions to an action-oriented state of radical compassion?

Establish a Charitable Family Culture

If you’re reading this article, it’s likely that you are already engaged in many of the behaviors you hope to someday see from your children: making charitable donations, volunteering with non-profits, engaging in conversations with your peers, mowing a neighbor’s lawn, or rounding up your grocery tab for a local animal shelter.

Be intentional about allowing your children to witness your efforts and frequently share why they’re important to you. If you have not been as engaged with your community as you would like, share that with them, as well! Then, work as a family to clarify your intentions and map out an action plan.

Focus on What They Can Do

News headlines, especially this year, can be overwhelming for all of us, especially children. Have conversations that help them see what steps they can take to make a difference. Emphasize improving situations rather than solving them. Ending world hunger is a daunting challenge, but delivering groceries to a local food bank helps a family share a healthy and nutritious meal together.

When children feel that they are making a direct impact, it reinforces their ability to be a changemaker.

Provide Hands-On Experiences

Create experiences with your kids to help them personally engage. Start by researching the work of a handful of local non-profits to see which one piques their interest most. Together, you can call the organization to schedule a site visit, which is an impactful way for them to learn what they do and why they do it. Ask if they have any opportunities for your child to help support their work. Things like handwritten letters, new houseplants for the office, or a bake-sale fundraiser will be greatly appreciated by non-profit staff and beneficiaries alike.

Give Them Autonomy

Give the gift of giving to your child by giving them a budget designated for charities. This can be cash or something official like Fidelity Charitable’s Gift4Giving. Help guide them through a decision-making process. Worry less about which cause they support; celebrate the acts of self-reflection and forming personal values.

What specific issue do they care about most, and what organizations are addressing it? Do they want to give it all to one organization or divide it between a few? In families with multiple children, it can be fun to have each make a presentation on their favorite charity so that the whole family can get in on the excitement.

It is never too early to start instilling a sense of community and compassion for others. From infanthood, you can read books and tell stories about sharing, caring, and speaking up for others. Children can bring light and hope into the world through their time and presence alone, and the more they are given the opportunity to engage, the more it will become part of their identity.

If your family has found additional ways to engage your children in philanthropy and radical compassion, we’d love to hear them! You can also partner with our team to develop an age-appropriate family giving plan.

Laura Tarbutton is the philanthropic program manager at Brighton Jones.

Read more from our blog:


Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by Brighton Jones LLC), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this blog will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful. Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained on this blog serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Brighton Jones LLC.

To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing. Brighton Jones LLC is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the blog content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the Brighton Jones LLC’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available for review upon request.

Brighton Jones is not affiliated with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube or other social media websites and we have no control over how third-party sites use the information you share. Please remember that you should never communicate any personal or account information through social media and it is important to familiarize yourself with their respective privacy and security policies.