Teaching children to be both!
Generosity is a virtue, a Gift of Character that every child and human have within. Everyone can give to others freely just because they want to do so. Generosity begins with knowing that there is enough for everyone and when we share what is valuable to us there is joy on both sides, for the giver and the receiver.
There is a difference between generosity and charity, though. When we give to those that have any or very few of their treasures that we are practicing charity. When we give and share with others things that we value, are our favorites we are generous. Imagine if you were awakening the gift of generosity in your child you might ask them if they would be “generous and share their stuff toy or blanket with their sibling”? That is generosity!
If you were to give the blanket to someone who was in need of one, you would be practicing charity. As a family, we would like to practice both of these gifts. How can you encourage your child to be generous with their treasures by sharing them with other family members or visiting friends? At the same time, we want to practice charity by giving up treasures that others may be able to use.
Being generous with our things is one way of noticing opportunities to give and share with those we know and are close to us. It is the beginning of learning to discern when those outside our circle of the family are in need and finding it within us to give to them freely also.
There are many ways of being of service to those in need. To learn the joy of giving and to get to give without expecting anything in return, we can begin teaching our children to serve / give to those in the family first. Recently I asked students about what their family gave to them, how did their family help them. It was not easy for them to answer the question. Then I asked what do you give to your family, how do you serve them? A few comments about feeding the cat, taking out the trash, even helping with dishes. Better!
Our job as a parent is to mentor and coach our children. Parents providing “extra’s” for children comes from the heart and but must be careful not to create children who feel entitled to things, praise and protection from mistakes. Coaching our kids to give to the family is a way of teaching responsibility, and they are learning to be charitable to others.
The joys of giving to others begin with gratitude for what others are doing for us. When children appreciate all the extra’s parents do for them, then they can start to learn the joy of doing for others. That is why as a parent we must be careful about over-indulging our children with material things, over-praising them, even over-protecting them from failures and natural consequences.
When we talk about charity, giving to those in need, it would be remiss if we didn’t also mention that when you are a part of serving others, science has shown that not only are we happier, but we live longer too. Psychology Today reported – “People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44 percent lower likelihood of dying—and that’s after sifting out every other contributing factor, including physical health, exercise, gender, habits like smoking, marital status, and many more.”
They went on to report the following about kids:
“This may be especially true for kids. Adolescents who identify their primary motive as helping others are three times happier than those who lack such altruistic motivation. Similarly, teens who are giving are also happier and more active, involved, excited, and engaged than their less engaged counterparts. Generous behavior reduces adolescent depression and suicide risk, and several studies have shown that teenagers who volunteer are less likely to fail a subject in school, get pregnant, or abuse substances. Teens who volunteer also tend to be more socially competent and have higher self-esteem.”
Getting our children and students involved in giving to others, finding causes that they care about and learning the joy that comes from serving others will lessen some if not many of the issues that young people face in our world today.
How are you doing as a parent in setting the example of giving our treasures, talents and time to those things that are important to us? How are you helping your young ones to grow their idealism and purposefulness for service? Having service and charity as a part of your family vision will be beneficial to all concerned.
During the month of August, we have talked to our students about the idea of charity, giving to those in need. Already we have discussed giving others our treasures including clothes, toys, or other things that have been valuable to us and we now can pass on to others for their use. We also discussed giving of our talent to organizations that have specific needs. If I had knowledge and skills in a specialty area or an interest in a particular cause that I can find a way to help out.
Kids want to be helpful, and they are self-centered at the same time. Which one will you encourage?
However, for young people with limited treasures and talent, it is important for them to learn the joy of helping others and they can do that with their time. A child need only be themselves to bring joy to a senior who does not get out very often. They might just sit with them and talk, play games or read to them. They may be able to offer help to organizations to cheer on or run with other children who have disabilities. Sharing themselves and their time by volunteering helps them to awaken the virtue of empathy and compassion.
The benefits of helping children learn about charity are many. There is an amazing thing about kids. They want to be helpful, and they are self-centered at the same time. Which one will you encourage as the parent or teacher? By setting the example and including them on our giving of time will feed the “I want to help” side. By giving them the opportunity to choose how they would like to help others we are slowing down the self-centered attitude that comes naturally and is encouraged by so much of the media today.
Giving our time, leading our children to do the same gives kids a powerful boost in self-esteem. They learn that it is not just about writing a check, but giving of themselves that can help make a difference in the community and world today.
What talents do you have that may be helpful to others? What are you good at that might be used to help someone in need? If our child thinks that the way to provide for others is simply to write a check or to give money, they may be missing out on an opportunity to use their talents to provide a service and achieve a great feeling about doing so.
Imagine if a young person without income enjoyed performing – singing, dancing, playing an instrument, or could demonstrate self-defense skills – they may choose to entertain those who are unable to get out like they did when they were young. Maybe their talent is cooking, and they made a meal for a senior, the joy they would bring to others and themselves.
When a young person has a skill that they can share it builds their confidence, helps others in need and starts them on the path of serving others – even without spending money. In fact, they may raise money with their talent for unique situations, like an area hit with severe weather or a family who has been displaced due to fire.
Helping our children see that it is not just about money when serving others will prepare them to look for ways that they can help others. We can even start them off thinking about what issue or problem would they like to solve or be a part of solving? When we help them to see the needs of others and how they could impact them with a good deed we are teaching them about charity, volunteering, and service above self.
While many virtues relate to the idea of charity, the one that stands out the most to me is service. Mahatma Gandhi quoted as saying, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” When we think about serving others, we are considering giving to those in need. This month we will examine how we can share with others our Treasures, Talents & Time.
To begin with treasures, though we may not see what we have as particularly valuable. However, so many humans around the globe do not have the fortune we have of a place to sleep, food to eat, or comfortable clothes to wear. So the treasure we have may be clothes that we are no longer wearing or have grown too big to wear. Our treasure may be toys that no longer are for our age group. There may be household wares or bedding that could be shared with others.
Our treasure may be actual money that supports an emergency situation like a flood, fire or weather-related disaster. Whatever our means and ability the service we give to others is about making our community and the world a better place. We provide service to others without a thought of what we are going to get out of doing good. However, we do feel happy when we can help others.
If we want our children to grow up and be happy – teach them the gift of service to others. Teach them is about charity, volunteering to give treasure, talent, or time to those in need.
This month let’s think about the needs of those in Ellicott City, MD who lost businesses, homes, cars and two families that lost loved ones. I will be attending a meeting in Ellicott City this week to learn what the needs are for that community and see how we may be able to help.