Thursday, September 13, 2012

Generous Kids

Every baby with Cheerios in front of him will try to feed some to his caregiver. And most adults, even the most fastidious, will eat a squishy, sticky, Cheerio offered by a child because the purity of the child's generosity is so enchanting.

That generosity is short-lived. It is usually followed by the MINE stage of development - where the words no and mine are the most frequently used words in the child's vocabulary. What comes after that stage has a lot to do with the child's perception of the world. If the child believes the world to be abundant, filled with plenty, then he will revert to his innate generosity. If he has formed a belief that scarcity is the way of the world, he will be less generously inclined. Most of us want our child's character to include generosity. So how do we help our kids see the abundance God showers upon us each day? Pretty much the same way we teach most things. . .

Model Generosity: Be generous in front of your kids. Buy the feed-the-hungry coupons at the grocery store check-out. Bring canned goods to food drives. Offer to help your neighbor carry in the groceries. Babysit for friends. Give money at church. Give away outgrown toys and clothing. Volunteer your time. Make giving an on-going activity, and not just a Christmas season feel good exercise.

Live Gratefully:  Express gratitude whenever you are conscious of your blessings. Give thanks at mealtime and bedtime, or anytime it seems appropriate. Talk about whether you are lucky or blessed when something good happens. Mention God's goodness whenever you can.

Reinforce the quality you desire: Yes, it is ok to reward generous behavior! If you see your child behaving generously, tell her how happy it makes you feel. Give her a cuddle and some special attention. Let her tell you how she felt when she acted generously.

Diminish the undesirable behavior: Our youth group has a rule about how we treat one another. If you put someone down, you have to immediately correct yourself by saying three nice things. This is a great idea for addressing selfish behavior too: every selfish act could be corrected by three random acts of kindness. It reinforces the idea that you believe kids are capable of being unselfish while making them think twice about being self-centered.

Teach them to set money aside: Remember the 80-10-10 rule in last week's post? Teach them to calculate 10% as soon as they learn place values in math. Make setting aside 10% a non-negotiable before they ever get used to spending 90 or 100% and they won't question is when they are older. And with that, we come full circle: model setting aside 10% for the purpose of giving it away. . .

I read an interesting idea once. The writer said that God's abundance is like the blood in your body. There is exactly enough for your whole body as long as it keeps circulating and is nourished. When it gets stopped up somewhere, or cut off from some part, there is a problem. Teach your kids to be part of the solution, not the problem.

No comments: