Are your children generous in sharing their time, money, and possessions? Or do they tend toward “all take and no give”?
This is one area where setting an example can backfire, if your own generosity is directed primarily toward your children and if you are too quick to shower them with everything they want. By all means, give them attention and material blessings as regularly and cheerfully as you do anybody else (“they had time for everyone but me” is a common reason for not wanting to be like one’s parents). But don’t jump whenever your kids say jump, and encourage them to share with others as you share with them.
Here are a few hints for cultivating your children’s generosity instincts:
If your church is having a clothing drive, deliver your donations as a family. If you’re volunteering at a homeless shelter, bring your children along to help. They’ll soon associate generosity with treasured family time. They may also make new friends from different backgrounds; and knowing people (or others like them) is a powerful motivator for generosity.
Many religious traditions have official standards on how much of income (or allowance) to give to the congregation or the needy. If yours doesn’t, you can still make a family rule that everyone gives 5–10 percent of income to a favorite cause. Don’t let the kids see you grumbling about, or cheating on, your own share!
It’s a fact of human psychology that when we’re in a hurry, instinct to help is among the first things we shove aside. If you want your kids to be generous, one of the best tools you can give them is extra time to share with others. Limit organized activities such as sports leagues to one or two at a time; don’t pile on the pressure to study for hours every night; and definitely don’t be so busy with your own work or activities that you have no smiles left for your own children.
Another way of being generous is opening your home to others—and then spending time with them instead of dashing about trying to be the perfect host. You don’t have to throw huge parties: just welcome your kids’ friends and your own to come by regularly for a snack or a chat. If you really want to set an example of being generous with time, turn off all sources of incoming messages.
Generosity is best encouraged when portrayed, not as something we do because we “have to,” but as a means of giving back to the world in gratitude for all we’ve been given. Always encourage, and set an example of, overall gratitude. A corollary of the belief that you have more than enough is the belief that there’s plenty to go around!