Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Generosity is a Gift

Part of a child’s growing self-awareness is the instinct to stake a claim on what is “mine.” This is why “mine” is a common refrain for typical toddlers (my toy, my cup) and teenagers (my room, my cell phone).  Advertisements for the latest, greatest, shiniest objects are eye-level for these suggestible consumers- which can give most kids the gimmies. If your child is different- celebrate that!   For the rest of us the job of cultivating generosity rests on our shoulders. 

If you wish to focus on generosity this holiday, don't be discouraged by developmental self-centeredness. Get clarity as a parent about how you want to teach generosity. What opportunities resonate for you- is it generosity of time, abundance, or finances?  Is it a particular cause that has impacted your family in some way?  Is it an awareness of a need in your neighborhood or community?  Being intentional in how you express generosity with your children will produce the greatest long term impact. Prepare them for the generous mindset through your announcement of a special project this year.

Less effective:
“You guys have NO IDEA how fortunate you are.  You are spoiled and selfish, you need to shape up and give away some of this junk that you don’t appreciate.”

More effective:
“Mrs. Smith is grieving the loss of her husband this holiday.  I bet she is feeling lonely and overwhelmed.  What can we do to show her that we care?”

One year we decided to try volunteering at the Edmond Community Thanksgiving Dinner when our daughters were 4 and 8.  We thought it would be a special way to be generous with our time before we sat down to our own family Thanksgiving feast.  A frantic hostess greeted us with the news  “guests are coming to eat in twenty minutes and we can’t find the cranberry sauce!” Cans of donated cranberry sauce were missing somewhere in the building and she asked for volunteers to do a search and rescue. FYI: Four year olds are great at hide and seek!  Our daughter’s first volunteer experience was manning the can opener so that cases of cranberry sauce could fulfill their Thanksgiving Destiny. That was sixteen years ago, and we haven’t missed a Community Dinner yet.  Our daughters have recruited friends, and boyfriends to be generous with their time on Thanksgiving.  Sometimes the gift of generosity becomes a tradition!
 Other ideas:
  • ·         One family makes cards for the residents of a senior center in memory of their grandma who once lived there.
  • ·         An athletic family collected used bicycles to donate to people affected by weather disasters.
  • ·         This year there is a drive to help families who lost their homes in the Moore Tornado with Christmas preparations. (This one is time sensitive- so please check the link now if you want to be involved)

How are you planning to give the gift of generosity with your family?


  1. These are wise words for the Christmas season, Lisa. And I know for a fact that your lessons in generosity fell on receptive ears with your daughters.

  2. Thanks Dee Dee! We do what we can in parenting and hope that the seeds we plant will take root. It's exciting to see young people responding with generosity ;)

  3. Love that family giving has become part of the holiday tradition!

    1. Our previous tradition was putting up the tree while the turkey cooked, but we like this one so much better!