We all enjoy doing things for our children – buying them something special, taking them on a fun outing, throwing a great birthday party. At the same time, though, many of us fear that without some balance, most children will grow up thinking only of themselves.
So, what can we do to keep our children in check, and teach them that giving to others often feels better than receiving things yourself?
Dr. Paul Donahue, a clinical psychologist and author of "Parenting Without Fear," gives us some tips on how to raise generous and compassionate children. He offers these suggestions:
- Teach giving, not taking, at home – If kids have opportunities to help at home and contribute in a way that they can, they will learn how good it feels to be givers, not takers.
One of the main ways kids can help out at home is helping in the kitchen. Even young kids can make a real contribution to the family meal. Stir the soup, set the table, help to bake cookies. Older kids can help their siblings: doing homework, reading to them, teaching them sports and games. It's a great way to let kids know they're all in it together, rather than "every man for himself."
- Teach kids about respect and caring, and be a model yourself – In addition to teaching your kids how to speak to people (please and thank you), and teaching kids how to take turns and to share, parents should always be a model themselves. Respect for others equals caring and generosity of spirit.
You might have heard the phrase, "be polite to see polite." Parents should always speak respectfully to others: to spouses, grandparents, teachers, babysitters, workmen, waiters. Kids are always watching us.
Control your own frustrations in front of your kids, such as waiting in line patiently at the grocery store, not getting upset when a salesperson makes a mistake, or rolling our eyes at other parents whose kids are misbehaving. Once again, your children are watching and they are ready to mimic your every eye roll.
- Teach kids about contributing to the community – Teach kids the value of living generously through giving of their time and effort.
Kids will always benefit from a form of giving that has a personal touch. Visiting an elderly neighbor or delivering meals to families will have a lasting impression on children. So the next time your family is all together, consider taking a trip to the local food bank to serve together. Not only will this bring your family closer together, but it will inevitably grow the seeds of generosity within your children.
And our team at NCF would add … encourage your kids to give financially to your church or favorite causes, even at a very young age. A great teaching tool is the My Giving Bank, a small three-compartment bank, from the late NCF co-founder Larry Burkett. It's a neat, tangible way to show your kids how to set aside money for saving, spending, and tithing.