When the folks at Razoo contacted me to ask if I would write a post about how to instill generosity in kids, it was easy to do. I have been agonizing over how to do it for about a year now with my own three children, who are just now getting to an age where I think they can understand.
As a business owner and parent, I realize that we have been very blessed.
My husband and I have made a pretty good living, and we have three active, healthy and privileged kids. As a kid growing up in a very lower middle class neighborhood with a single mom, this was my dream.
I never realized it could also be a problem.
Lately we have been noticing that our kids are might just be a little too privileged.
It is the small things: whining and fussing about not getting something they want, and when they say to me, “If I break it you can just buy me a new one, right?”
And then there is the times where they step out with such brilliance to help others that is takes my breath away.
With our oldest child now seven, I am starting to see that we will have to be intentional about teaching them to be generous and to appreciate what they do have.
There are three things that I feel are the most important things in teaching generosity and those are to lead by example, to teach empathy and to take action.
Lead By Example
As parents, we need to be generous and gracious. This goes far beyond giving money, though that is important too. It means not just passing homeless people on the street without even looking at them, it means helping a neighbor in need even when it isn’t convenient, and putting your own needs and wants in the backseat to theirs and others. There may come a time when they ask you why you do such things, and then you can tell them. It provides a teaching moment.
But even if they don’t know all that you do, it is important that we also have causes that we are passionate about. Moreover, that we put our resources of time, talent and treasure into those causes regularly. We may not have an abundance of all three resources all the time, but there is always one or more of these areas where we can give back. Moreover, we should have goals to increase in each area.
So, this year, as I am doing my regular year-end giving, I am also going to involve them in the process. Razoo is giving me a $100 giving card. I was a bit reluctant to take it, but I want to give as much as I can this season, and I plan to let my kids help me decide where to invest it. Moreover, I am also buying giving cards for some our clients at my company, Zoetica. We have always pledged to give away 10% of our profit every year, and I plan to do that and a little more. I also like that the credit card fee is only 2.9%, so I feel that it is a responsible way to give. These are great gifts for coworkers, too.
I have found that I have to teach my kids that they are not the center of the universe. Not in a belligerent or belittling way, but in a way that helps them to understand another point of view. One way is to give kids words for emotions. For example, when my son hits his sister, I ask, “How would it make you feel if your sister hit you?” The answer is always some various of “sad, hurt, upset.” And usually you see a little light go off in their eyes as they imagine how they would feel.
One time we were preparing to have a family we barely knew over for dinner. They were having trouble with of their kids and we wanted to reach out to them. My son was angry because we had spent the afternoon getting ready rather than catering to what he wanted to do. “You love everyone else more than me,” he yelled. I was able to talk to him, once he was calm, and explain that part of loving your neighbor as yourself involves giving up your own agenda from time to time.
This year, for Christmas, we decided to give some money to buy livestock for families in Africa. Instead of just letting the kids help us pick out the livestock and paying for it, we did it as a family. We usually go to a restaurant once a week, so for several weeks we gave up our restaurant visit and added what we would have spent to the fund. As such, our kids sacrificed a little, and understood the gift more.
Also, our oldest son now gets an allowance. We require that he save some, give some and the rest is his to keep. This keeps the importance of giving forefront in his mind every week. As a family, we also give at least 10% of our income.
When I attended the Cause Marketing Summit this year, I was listening to Nancy Lublin, CEO of Do Something, a nonprofit organization that gives grants to teens that are looking to make a social impact with campaigns that don’t require money, an adult or a car.
As a mother of two, and someone who works with teens on a daily basis, she said something that really caught my attention:
“Homelessness is a "gateway" cause to get teens involved in philanthropy.” – Nancy Lublin, DoSomething.com
It turns out my church goes downtown once a month on Sunday mornings to serve the homeless, and children are welcome. It seems that the homeless in the shelter are much more gentle when children are present.
I think we have a date. I plan to start taking my 7-year-old in January.
What do you plan to do to teach your children to be more generous this year? Or how will you use your own, or the resources in your workplace to make a difference?
I could use the tips.