Every Friday, six-year-old Micah Fong and his younger sister Victoria, four, are given some pocket money to place in four piggy banks.
Their parents usually give them four coins each to put in glass jars labelled Save, Spend, Donate and Invest.
Mr Fong Xiongkun, a 32-year-old Singapore Armed Forces regular, and his wife, stay-at-home mother and freelance writer Rachel, 31, started teaching their two elder children the basics of budgeting last year, inspired by an online article they had read. Their third child, Mark, is 10 months old.
When Micah decided to donate the few dollars they had accumulated to The Cat Museum they visited, which houses a variety of felines, his mother was pleased.
That episode, as well as another incident, where Micah made sure he found a missing toy fishing rod before the family donated the complete toy set to the poor, indicated to her that her children were “internalising” their family values.
Mrs Fong says: “Sometimes as a parent, you doubt yourself (and wonder) if you have raised them well, but they know what it means to be kind and have sympathy for others.”
Practices such as saving money to be donated, regularly setting aside toys to be given to the less fortunate and volunteering as a family are some ways in which parents interviewed by The Sunday Times teach their children about compassion.
Building such habits early is a good start, say parenting experts.
Ms Sarah Chua, parenting specialist at Focus on the Family Singapore, says: “Children learn best through observation and modelling the behaviour of those around them. Children as young as one can learn to share and care for others when such behaviour is consistently modelled to them.
“For children who are of primary- school age and older, parents can start to expose them to a bigger picture of life beyond their immediate surroundings. For example, they can encourage young ones to think of helping the less fortunate by raising funds for a cause.”
There are also programmes and websites that help parents teach their kids how to be more caring.
Learning the value of compassion helps young children build social skills and relationships as well as understand the consequences of negative actions. This plays a role in tackling the social issue of bullying, says a representative of the Singapore Children’s Society.
The society’s services include the Choo Choo Train programme, which teaches children, aged five and six, how to treat others as they learn about values such as compassion, respect and responsibility via role-playing, story-telling and games. The programme is estimated to reach almost 600 pre- schoolers this year.
Addressing a societal need to be inclusive, including respecting people with disabilities, the Community Chest launched a new website (Sharity.sg) featuring Sharity, its pink elephant mascot, about a week ago. Billed as a portal for teachers, parents and children to access information on caring and sharing, it also hosts a Sharity & Friends animation series.
Related: Watch and Learn
Mr Chew Kwee San, vice-chairman of the Community Chest Committee and chairman of the Sharity Programme Sub-Committee, says the website and animation series aim to “help shape a more inclusive society”.
He adds: “A study done by the National Council of Social Service in 2015 showed that six in 10 people with disabilities do not feel they are socially included, accepted or given opportunities to achieve their potential. We need to address this issue and change the mindset of Singaporeans, and we start with our young.”
He says the animation series will address themes important to school-going children, such as learning difficulties, teamwork, filial piety and cyber-bullying.