Lately I’ve been asking myself, “How can I teach my kids to be generous?” I started to consider practical steps, and then realized I had forgotten a more important question. The first question I need to ask as a parent is about me, “How can I be generous to others?”
By Alison Escalante, Psychology Today
Questioning my own behavior is crucial, because it helps avoid two common mistakes parents make. First, acting like this is a skill they need to learn but doesn’t apply to me. It doesn’t help at all if I act selfishly toward others and then preach at them about giving freely. Second, acting like generosity is related to one concrete thing, like charity, and ignoring that generosity is a lifestyle.
What is generosity anyway? Why does it matter to kids?
Notre Dame’s Science of Generosity Project defines generosity as “giving good things to others freely and abundantly.” Someone like that sounds like a nice person, and I would love for my kids to grow up to be nice people. But how does generosity affect happiness? Generosity is associated with better mental health, and it is linked to happiness. “And even small acts of kindness, like picking up something someone else has dropped, make people feel happy.”
When we think of generosity, most often we think of spending money on others, but that’s only part of it. Becoming a generous person involves being helpers, sharing our time, paying attention to people and encouraging them, even being emotionally available. Do you see what’s happening with this list? Remember that the most powerful way children learn from parents is by modeling. That means they do what we do, not what we say.
And of course, parenting also plays a role in cultivating generosity. Some studies have found that various parenting practices – particularly role-modeling and discussing generosity – may help children grow up to be more generous adults.