Teaching Kids to Share Using the Three T’s

Thanksgiving brings thoughts of gratitude and sharing with others. While it is a special day, we model for kids all year long what it means to share. The following is an excerpt adapted from the book “Millionaire Babies or Bankrupt Brats? Love and Logic Solutions to Teaching Kids About Money” co-authored by Kristan Leatherman(© 2009. Love and Logic® Institute).

There was a knock at the door. Twelve-year-old Jill rushed to answer it. “Oh,” she said, clearly disappointed. “Mommm … it’s for you!”

When Mom arrived at the door, she saw her neighbor and the familiar donation clipboard in her hand. Mom grabbed her purse and started looking for some money. Not finding anything but loose change, she called to her daughter. “Jill, you just got your allowance—how about donating some money to the Natural Disaster Relief Fund?”

“What! I need my money for some new clothes!” was the reply from the couch.

Embarrassed, Mom pulled out her checkbook and wrote a check. She was too angry to speak when she returned to the family room. She was appalled at her daughter’s lack of understanding that there are plenty of people in the world who are less fortunate than she is. Mom realized that Jill didn’t have a clue about how “the other half lives,” nor did she apparently care. Any rationalizations that Jill’s behavior was “typical tweenager” went out the window as Mom realized that her own generosity had made no impression whatsoever on her daughter.

Until that day, Mom thought that her philanthropic contributions to worthy causes over the years would teach Jill to follow in her footsteps. Not so. Instead of modeling Mom’s generosity, Jill either ignored it or resented it. A lifetime of receiving without giving anything back taught Jill to learn how to take but not how to share. Like Jill’s mom, writing a check is often the easiest thing to do and it is what our kids see us do. But it’s not very personal, or practical for teaching children how to share. Plus, some of life’s most poignant lessons can be found in the value of giving gifts that do not involve money.

Parents who wish to teach their kids how to share can avail themselves of the 3 T tools – Time, Talent and/or Tithe. The 3 T’s gives parents choices to offer their children which increase their chance for cooperation and that are more personally engaging than money. And, it’s the tool parents can use that provides a “no excuse” sharing policy.

The 3 T’s – Time, Talent and Tithe

The first two T’s, Time and Talent, blend together, especially with kids. Kids can donate time to whatever “budding interest or raw talent” they have at the time. The key is to let your child pick a cause he or she is intrinsically interested in, so that the reason to give is obvious. Kids tend to be are more willing to share when they have a say in choosing the cause.

Volunteer opportunities for kids are everywhere. They include stuffing envelopes, animal care, trail repair, selling tickets, answering the phone, delivering food baskets, cleaning up a section of the highway, or serving as a museum docent or theater usher. Some of the more popular fundraising ideas for charitable organizations that can include kids are: a car wash, a bake sale, a local garage sale, a community auction, or a talent show.

Older kids can easily create their own service projects. With a little encouragement and supervision, they can offer to pull weeds for disabled neighbor, recycle bottles, pick up trash strewn about their area, or deliver the mail and newspaper to a house-bound resident. Of course, sharing with others who are less fortunate should not just be synonymous with the holidays, but can provide year round opportunities.

These and many other volunteer opportunities in our communities can be found in the local newspaper, through online volunteer databases, or at a local volunteer clearinghouse.


When it comes to teaching kids how to share money, the issue is not the amount of the donation; the issue is that your child is learning how to share what they have with others who have less. Let your financial resources and family values be your guide when determining an appropriate amount.

Jill’s mom, for example, would be wise not to force her to share her money, but offer her choices about how she can share. Some parents find it effective to waive the monetary giving requirement if their children are volunteering in other ways that involve their time, or their toys. For example, if you child resists making a $5 donation, then he or she can be offered the choice to donate a toy or possession equal to $5. Or, instead of a child sharing their earnings or allowance, they can choose to donate a “share” of time to a cause of their choice.

As for Jill? Being a fashion bug, she ended up getting a few friends together and put in some time on Saturdays at the Second Chance Career Center, a non-profit organization that recycled career clothes for job seeking women.

Bottom line: Wise parent never force sharing. Mandates rarely come from the heart. But what parents can do is offer their kids choices using the 3 T’s. For a list of age appropriate choices, ideas for when kids resist your efforts to teach this valuable lesson, and exactly how Jill’s Mom turned her entitled daughter around, see the book I coauthored with Jim Fay “Millionaire Babies or Bankrupt Brats? Love and Logic Solutions to Teaching Kids about Money”.

Kristan’s commitment to helping parents raise respectful, responsible and self-reliant kids is reflected in her workshops, books and consulting practice. Check out her website at www.RaisingMillionaireBabies.com. She loves to hear from her readers. E-mail her with your comments and questions at Kristan@RaisingMillionaireBabies.com.