Does your mailbox get flooded each Christmas with requests for donations to charitable organizations? The holidays are a good reminder for us to open our hearts and pocketbooks to the needs of those who are less fortunate. But charity is much more than giving, it is a way of life. Charity is simply the act of loving others and caring for their needs; and there's no better place to begin teaching your children charity than in your own home.

Building a heart of compassion in your child for the needs of others involves an investment of time and effort by parents. Children are by nature selfish, and daily confrontations with siblings and other family members require children to be trained to show Christian love that is unconditional, sacrificial, and with no thought of reward. The Character Builders' series from Alpha Omega Publications® is one resource that will help you develop a charitable attitude in your child by teaching the following traits:

Forgiveness
- Like Ebenezer Scrooge, grudges and resentments can cause children to shirk at the idea of showing charity. Since offenses happen daily in life, teach your child to reconcile by saying "I'm sorry" when he has offended someone and also to extend forgiveness by saying "You're forgiven" when others have hurt him.

Accountability - Since acts of charity are driven by the Holy Spirit, teach your Christian child that he must keep "short accounts" with the Lord. Confessing his sins daily will help him stay sensitive to the Holy Spirit's promptings to help others.

Helpfulness - Who can keep up with all the daily household chores while homeschooling? Use these tasks to teach your child the art of "foreseeing" the needs of others so he can learn how to extend a helping hand without being asked. Show him how "many hands make happy hearts" so that he'll develop the desirable trait of teamwork.

Politeness - What shows love and value to people more than good manners? Saying please, thank you, excuse me, and other phrases of etiquette shows appreciation and respect to the person being addressed. Have your child use these words in generous amounts to keep the wheels of relationships turning smoothly in your family. As an adult, your child will naturally treat people (poor or rich) with charity through his gracious, good manners.

Encouragment - Physical and verbal affirmation is an important quality of showing charity to others. The Bible says, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." (Proverbs 25:11) A compliment on schoolwork or on an attempt at a new hobby is worth its weight in gold to a brother or sister. Your children will learn that giving someone the gift of encouragement through an appropriate hug or saying "good job" costs nothing and is a loving act that everyone appreciates.

Generosity - The aspect most associated with charity is giving. Your child can learn this quality from a young age by sharing toys, food, or any possession with siblings. Even an only child can learn to share by you requiring him to give back something he values. Beware of killing your child's charitable nature by constantly giving him gifts. You may think you are showing love, but materialism will dominate a child's attitude when sharing is neglected.

As your child grows older, he can also share the valuable commodity of time by reading a book, playing a board game, or playing a favorite sport with a younger sibling. You can also open your child's world to the art of giving in secret (Matthew 6:1-4), as true charity needs no reward.

Charity is more than giving money and one-time donations at Christmas, it is giving from a heart that is filled with God's love. Practicing these qualities with others will prepare your child for a lifetime of loving God, his family, and his world. This Christmas and throughout the year invest the time to develop the many qualities that make up your child's attitude of charity through those small, sacrificial acts of love that begin at home.