Teaching Children Social Responsibility
By Mary Sigmond, YPO
Social responsibility starts at home, and it prepares your children to be global citizens.
YPO member Tiffany Kuehner is a proponent and practitioner of this outlook. Her early exposure to helping at soup kitchens fostered a lifelong passion for philanthropy, social business and international development.
For the past 15 years, Kuehner has focused on tackling global poverty gender inequality in the United States, China, Thailand, Tanzania, Uganda and Haiti. She is the Board Chair and former CEO of Hope for Haiti, a leading global non-profit organization started 28 years ago by her grandmother to improve the quality of life for the Haitian people, particularly children.
The Georgetown University graduate previously worked with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Women Moving Millions in the United States, and Mwanza Women’s Development Association in Tanzania.
Some of Kuehner’s earliest memories are of her grandparents taking her to a local soup kitchen on the weekends. “I was responsible for ladling the soup (I was 3 years old!), and I remember absolutely loving it and looking forward to it each weekend. I felt like I was a part of their family. I didn’t know it then, but I do think about it a lot now and how that experience taught me at a very young age how not to fear “the other” (someone who may initially seem dissimilar to yourself). Instead, I grew up feeling incredibly connected to people from all walks of life and a shared sense of responsibility for challenges faced by those most vulnerable.”
She feels strongly about teaching children social responsibility at an early age. “My girls are very young but I’ve trekked them all over, including Haiti, and I know they are watching everything their father and I do.” Her daughters see how she embraces and welcomes people upon greeting them, and “even how we interact at the grocery store.” She wants to instill in her girls a deep sense of social responsibility and generosity. “I want it to be a part of their DNA as I know it will bring them the greatest joy and fulfillment in their life.”
- Start early — and it’s never too early. Even as babies, children are learning how you respond to the world around them.
- Cultivate and encourage your child’s passions, whether it’s visiting with cats and dogs at your local shelter when they are 3 years old or helping to save the whales when they are five. Encouraging their empathy for others and personal passions at a young age with an entrepreneurial spirit will reinforce social responsible behavior becoming a part of their DNA.
- Give them the opportunity to make a difference. Participate with them at a soup kitchen, at a community clean-up day, in a charity walk or a run, and talk about your values and passions and why they are so important to you.
- Teach them the importance of fundraising and supporting what they believe in. No amount is ever too small. Bringing even a handful of pennies into a local charity will not only be a fantastic lesson for your little one, but will absolutely make the day of the men and women who work so hard for that important cause.
- Be kind and generous in all you do. Make sure your child knows that being a kind and responsible member of society is just the way of life. Social responsibility starts at home and prepares your children to be global citizens in our increasingly interdependent world.
Kuehner says she feels the greatest levels of love, compassion and joy during the moments when she has the opportunity to be part of a community and a purpose that is far greater than herself. “I hope I can instill this same feeling of purpose and love in my children that I have been so fortunate to have learned from my family.”