Last week, my MOPS group brought in a speaker who discussed teaching our children to be generous. She had tons of great ideas, and it got me thinking about all of the things we do with our children already. Generosity through volunteerism and donations is very important to my husband and I. God has richly blessed us with opportunity, talent, and health. We’ve taken those blessings, added in a lot of hard work, and have a beautiful life. We are so fortunate and feel that it is important to share what we have. We want our children to know that no matter what you have, you can give in some way. Here are a few things we do to help teach them generosity:
Start at home. Teach young children to be generous with their siblings and others at home. One simple way we have done this is with dessert. Sweets are a big deal in our house, and from the time our children were able to eat them, we shared our desserts with them. When our second son was big enough, we encouraged our oldest son to share with him and praised him when he did. It may seem like a small thing, but sweets are a treat (that are often earned for finishing dinner), so for a child, there is a significant amount of sacrifice that goes into giving away some of that treat. Our children aren’t perfect sharers by any means, but we have seen how sharing treats has crossed over into different acts of generosity between the two of them. If they are apart and one of them gets a treat, he always wants to pick out one for the other brother. We’ve recently seen our 4 year-old giving his little brother more and more of his own things without being asked, and let me tell you, it is precious!
Get kids involved. There are so many ways to get young kids involved in giving, but be prepared for them to have a hard time at first. At Christmas time, we like to adopt a family, but we found our kids were not ready to pick out big gifts and toys for other kids. I wanted to take Atticus with me to wrap gifts once, and at the time, it was just too much for him. There is a period of being a small child and wanting to run down the toy aisle and get all of the toys for yourself-that’s human nature, and it doesn’t mean your child can’t learn to give. It just means you need to start smaller. Right now, the Operation Christmas Child boxes are perfect for teaching our kids to give to others at Christmas time. We talk about needing basic things like toiletries and that some kids don’t even have a toothbrush. We discuss the privilege of going to school as we get supplies. Then they pick out small toys, which isn’t nearly as overwhelming.
Another small way to ease kids into giving is by donating to a food pantry. We get our kids involved by letting them pick out food at the grocery store. We encourage them to pick out some of their favorite foods to donate, and then we pick up other essentials that we would use in our own home. This provides the perfect opportunity to show that charity is not about giving your leftovers; it’s about sharing with others what you would want for yourself.
This is probably a good time to say that generosity should involve sacrifice, and it’s ok for that sacrifice to make kids feel uncomfortable. They should also give willingly. True generosity isn’t forced, so follow your children’s cues. When children are young, the goal is to help them develop a heart for giving, so that when they are older they will choose to give because they want to make life better for someone else. If every act of charity is painful, then you will achieve the opposite.
Model generosity. Show your children that generosity is a habit and should be part of your everyday life. Say yes when the clerk asks you to give a dollar to St. Jude. Hold the door for someone. Let the elderly woman behind you go in front in the line at the doctor’s office. Take a meal to a new mom. Send a handwritten note to a lonely relative. Bake cookies for a neighbor just because. Model putting others ahead of yourself, and your kids will start to do the same.
So let’s raise a generation of selfless kids. Tell me how you teach your kids to give in the comments below. I really want to know!