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Answers from YouthZone

Do you value volunteering? If you do, you have taken the first step. Do you volunteer? If so, you are modeling the behavior you are hoping to see in your children. That is a big second step. Do you bring them along to volunteer with you? That is step three.Done all that but you are not getting that enthusiastic “I want to do this” response? Then explore with me an essential element in volunteering. We call it a contribution. People search for things that give them a sense of meaning and purpose. When you volunteer, you receive a return – the good feeling that you have done something to make a difference. Kids are accustomed to seeing the world in terms of chores. Chores are something you have to do because it needs being done. On the other hand, a contribution is something you do for someone that makes a difference. We train our kids to see their world in terms of chores: “Put away the dishes, hang up those jackets. …” instead of saying, “We have company coming over in an hour. I would really appreciate anything you can do to help clean up this kitchen.” Of course, they will not see all the things out of place that you do. You might take a moment and look at the room and together identify things that can be done. Or you might go about your work and let them take a shot at making their contribution. Either way, notice what they did, thank them, and tell them how it helped you get to the goal of straightening the room. Explain that they made a contribution.Many times we need to give orders. Just remember that those are chores. We also need to build in opportunities for contributions. Volunteers don’t do chores. Volunteers make contributions. Kids will respond to volunteer opportunities that allow them to contribute a skill that they possess or an opportunity that gives them a chance to do something they have never done before. Volunteers often get to do out the ordinary things. If you painted pigs on the window of a business in town, that would be vandalism unless you are doing it during YouthZone’s Kiss-n-Squeal fund-raiser. Then it’s volunteering! My two boys and I helped the Glenwood Rotary Club put flags at the veteran’s graves for Memorial Day weekend. Although I got a little bit of the “How long will this take” stuff, they came along. They saw other people in the community volunteering and realized that the more people helping meant the faster the work was for all. It was a great chance to talk about the meaning of Memorial Day and about those who are currently serving our country. My guess is they will be reminding me about this next year.Value, model and introduce your kids to opportunities that allow them to feel they have made a contribution. They will get hooked on volunteering!Debbie Wilde is executive director at YouthZone.Send your question in to YouthZone at mjcarnevale@youthzone.com, and we’ll answer it in our column.


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