How A Parent Can Nurture Generosity

The holiday ads are in full swing, both on TV and on the Internet. For those of us who still get newspapers, they, too, are filled with ads promoting all kinds of holiday sales. All these ads fill our heads (and more importantly our children’s heads) with images of all the gifts to put on Wish Lists.

The holidays can push overindulgence into overdrive!

diane sitting on steps with three kidsIt’s not quite December and parents are beginning to groan because children can be so insistent. They may even seem greedy about what they expect to receive.

As David Bredeholt so eloquently states on the Website about overindulgence:

Too many toys, too many clothes, too many activities, too much stimulation, too many choices, too much of anything can slow a child’s growth.

Too many things can signal, ‘Throw it away and get a new one’, instead of learning to take care of it.

Too many activities can convince the child he is the center of the universe and other people exist to provide that attention for him. Dad is proud to be able to provide what his son wants, and he often puts Andy’s wishes first. Andy, age 10, wants a better bike and he wants it now! It doesn’t matter that the family needs to save for a new car.

The holidays can actually be a season for promoting a spirit of generosity versus one of self-centeredness.

In fact, parents can make the goal of giving to others their family’s holiday theme.

Here are a few simple suggestions:

  • Make time to talk with your children about the people around them who might be in need of extra holiday gifts or donations of food because they are struggling in some way.
  • Have children create lists of people to whom they would like to give gifts, then share their ideas for what those gifts might be.
  • Help your children make Gift Jars for people in the family. They write their “gift service ideas” on pieces of paper they fold and put in the jar to give to the recipient of the gift. (Examples: “I will gather the trash from all the trash cans in the house and put them trash outside.” “This coupon entitles the bearer to a 15-minute backrub.”)
  • Show your children the list create of things you plan to give to others.
  • Find organizations that legitimately use donations to help those in need and invite children to contribute some of their holiday money to those they select.
  • Invite children to go through their toys and clothes to select as many as possible to donate to local faith or other organizations that distribute items to those in need.
  • Find some national or international charity to support. Websites like GuideStar and Forbes provide some suggestions.

Let’s invite our children to discover the joys of giving.

a girl holding a presentIt can lessen their tendencies to be self-centered and overindulged, especially at holiday times when there’s so much temptation in our culture.

As a result, attitudes and beliefs about what holidays are about can shift.

Instead of asking kids, “What do you want for the holidays?” the question instead can be, “How can we make somebody’s holiday special by giving something to him or her?”

Invitation for Reflection

  1. What stories might you share with your children about gifts you have given to others, or services you have provided because you recognized someone’s need.
  2. How can you model for your children the values of giving to others who are in need and not demand that every new gadget or fancy item of clothing is necessary to experience true happiness?
  3. Diane Wagenhals, Director of Lakeside Global Institute