How Parents Can Help Raise Do-Gooders

How Parents Can Help Raise Do-Gooders

Developing a sense of social accountability and the importance of long-lasting change in youth is huge. It helps create a future generation of citizens engaged in the world around them.

The best way to do this is start young. Youth projects don’t have to be lengthy or elaborate. A young person doesn’t have to start a foundation to make a difference (although youth have certainly done this).

Youth projects can be something as simple as gathering food and career resources for homeless people. It could mean starting a small community garden to give at-risk youth an after-school activity.

Just do something” is a good guideline. Of course, to do something, youth must first have a desire to do something.

This is where parents and other adults can come in.

Parents are a huge influence on their children. They can use this influence to help create future generations who are community-minded and willing to help others.
Here are some general pointers:


Don’t push

It can be tempting to tell your child what to be interested in and come up with a project for him or her to complete. Avoid doing this.

It’s fine to help think of ideas or suggest applying for a Peterson League grant, but the project should be something the young person is actually interested in.

Let children explore what interests them. Allow children freedom to develop these interests instead of being told what to do.

It can be stifling for young people to be pushed into something they aren’t passionate about. This has the potential to damage a sense of community engagement later on, the exact opposite of what we’re aiming for when raising do-gooders.


Lead by example

Toddlers learn by watching their parents. If parents are community-minded and express the importance of helping solve community problems, children will develop similar ideas.

Examples don’t need to be huge. Even small things, like asking someone how his or her day is going can show children it’s important to care about others.

Make helping others a part of home life. Involve the whole family in volunteering. By making helping others or the environment a normal occurrence, children are more likely to grow up and continue the effort.


Don’t be afraid to talk about community and world problems around the dinner table. Awareness of other people’s struggles helps children realize they aren’t the center of the universe.

A family focus on helping others can lead children away from television and Ipad games and get them involved in much needed community projects.


Let them lead

Once a child expresses interest in something, let them think of a way to address it. It’s fine to offer help, but let them hold the reins.

For example, if your child worries about shelter animals and wants to do something, don’t plan a project for them to complete.

Instead, ask “what can you do?” This can spur thinking and encourage problem-solving skills. It also ensures the project is something that peaks a young person’s interest.


Learning to create actionable solutions to community problems is an important skill for budding do-gooders. By letting children lead projects, as the Peterson League requires, they learn how to manage goals and be organized.

These skills are incredibly important for development and success later in life.


The take away

Encouraging children to do good doesn’t mean pushing, or telling them what to do. It can be as simple as listening to what a young person is interested in and having a conversation about how this interest can be used to create change in the community.

Adults, especially parents, can play a huge role in developing socially-conscious young people. By making helping others an important part of family or community life, this idea is likely to be passed on to children and become a part of their world-view.

Of course, every person is different. What may work to inspire one young person might not work for another.

The key is patience and allowing children to develop their own passions, instead of pushing an adult’s interest or what might sound best on a college application.

How do you inspire young people to do good?

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