One tip: Instead of a one-off around the holidays, keep kindness top of mind every day.

By Christina Vercelletto
Photo by Getty Images

1. Listen to their ideas.

“Let teens lead with their own insight about how they can be more generous,” says Ilan Shapiro, MD, medical director of health education at AltaMed in Los Angeles. They may have innovative suggestions you never thought of, like creating a social media campaign to clean up the neighborhood. 

2. Explain the payoff.

“Connect the dots for teens about the importance of being generous,” says Christian Smith, PhD, a sociology professor at the University of Notre Dame and co-author of The Paradox of GenerosityMake sure you put words behind their behaviors so they understand the power of their deeds.

3. Make it routine.

Instead of a one-off around the holidays, keep kindness top of mind every day—whether it’s a heartfelt thank-you or a half hour spent shoveling a neighbor’s driveway.

4. Model the behavior.

Don’t worry if you’re, well, not as generous as you wish you were. Let your desire to increase your teen’s willingness to give be an opportunity to inspire yourself as well. Decide on a personal commitment to give more, act on it and then tell your teen the who, what, when and why. “Share with them the process and the learning,” says Smith.