Here’s the one thing we tweaked with what we were already doing in teaching our kids to give. Believe me it made all the difference!
Tis the season to give!
Giving does something to you internally than just warm fuzzy feelings inside. I’ve watched teens, children and adults find purpose after being involved in community service projects in their neighborhood and abroad.
I’ve witnessed people find healing in the process of giving.
I’ve personally experienced the joy and gratitude it gives our family to serve together. And I’ve watched our hearts transform as a result of serving others.
I can’t even begin to explain what it does to me when I’ve witnessed generosity birthed in the hearts of my boys.
Giving Even When It’s Not Your Thing
I would like to think that giving and serving comes natural to all of us but it’s not. It’s definitely a skill and character trait we learn and cultivate. Though for some it comes more natural than others but as with all skills and character traits we have to practice and use it. The more we use that skill it then helps our brain creates pathways to giving not just consuming.
I have one child who is particularly drawn to service projects. My other two boys happily participate but the other child gets a twinkle in his eye at the thought of helping those in need.
Giving even when it’s not your thing is important. This is what I was told in my younger years
Just because you’re not inclined towards doing something in particular, doesn’t exempt you from doing it.”
plant seeds of Kindness
So we continue to find opportunities to plant seeds of kindness in our boys hearts even if it’s not their thing. I do it in hopes that one day when we’re not around it will flow from their heart. Or at least they’ll know in their hearts and minds, it’s the right thing to do whether they choose to do it or not.
We’ve given cookies out to street kids through a Cookie exchange with a twist, we’ve donated gently used toys to a low income school, we’ve packed our car with gifts and given them to kids on the street, we’ve gone to our local soup kitchen and helped serve food…
I want the Christmas season to be a time where generosity has the last word not consumerism. That the time, skills and money I’m blessed with can do more than just satiate my desires.
The One Thing to Change it Makes all the Difference
I’ve worked in non-profits pretty much all my life and one of the things I’ve learned is that we must get donors to become invested in the project in more than one way.
I’m not sure why I hadn’t applied this nugget of wisdom in our home because when we did it made all the difference.
You know that quote, tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember…?
We talk to our kids about the importance of giving but it’s not going to get them anywhere until we teach them and involve them in it. We usually do the first two but it’s the third one we lose sight of in the midst of the busyness.
- Tell me… talk to them about giving and what it looks like. We love to read books about generosity and empathy to get our kids thinking and talking about it. But don’t stop there because they will forget especially if it doesn’t come natural to them.
- Teach Me… Model what generosity looks like in every day life at home, when you’re out at the store and when you see others in need. This modeling is essential in helming them remember.
- Involve me… Go out and do a project together. Have your kids invest their time and their own money.
How to Involve Them Creatively
What made this years Christmas giving different was that our boys were invested in more than one way. Step #3 is of utter importance–Involve them!
In the past because life is crazy busy what usually happens is I go shopping for the gift and I purchase it with our money. Sometimes I even wrap it and then as we get out of the car I hand it to them and they deliver it to the church or non-profit.
Is this awful? No, you’re helping someone!
But stop and ask yourself: What was my original intention when I said “yes” to this charitable contribution? Was it to appease my conscious? Maybe but probably not. Was it to do good in the world? Yes, but probably not the only reason. Was it make a difference and teach me kids about giving? Yes! That’s why you said “yes” so then don’t just stop at “telling & teaching” get them involved. It will take more time but it’s well worth it.
This year our boys not only invested their time but also their money and they thought through the details of giving these gifts. This made all the difference!
- Have them save their own money for giving even if it’s a small amount encourage them to add it to your giving goal . This gets them personally invested in the project.related article: I share here our boy’s Save, Spend & Give system
- Think through the process. Talk to them about your values when it comes to buying & giving to those in need. So they are not just picking any gift that crosses their path.related article: I share here How to Give Gifts to Those in Need
- Go together to buy your item or volunteer together.
- If it’s a cause they can’t personally visit find a video or pictures to show them what they’re investing in. This is teaching them the value of personally being interested in what they support.
- You can pray. We pray for those ministries, organizations we are personally involved with whether it’s a one time give or regular support.
- Have them help you wrap them items.
What Happened When We Did This
Well, when we arrived at the store we talked about the type of toys we were looking to buy. They immediately went to the cheap toys section so I had to remind them of our “giving rules” for the poor (I share here some other tips when giving):
- We don’t give junky toys that fall apart in a day.
- We don’t buy toys that constantly need battery replacements (or send the gift with a pack of batteries).
- We don’t give away things that are broken, stained, holes in it, don’t work…
- We buy within our means.
After walking around the toy section for an hour and redirecting them and reminding them of our giving rules they did get a little frustrated. But at the end they did find good sturdy toys that were within their budget.
I congratulated them for working so hard. I reminded them that they had made lots of sacrifices through out the year to save this money to help others. I could tell they were proud of themselves. I realized then that though this took a lot longer than what I hoped for it was the best thing we’d done.
My kids were beaming when we got to the counter! This was the first difference I saw from getting them involved.
“You will have a greater blessing when you give than when you receive.” Acts 20:35
We got home and I had them wrap the toys and prepare the details of their gift. We watched a video of where the gifts were going and talked about why we were giving them gifts and how this act of kindness might impact the children receiving the gifts.
My son’s class has been participating in a kindness project all year long and their grand finale was to work on a Christmas program for the local orphanage and to donate gifts to them.
It was absolutely precious to watch these young kids serve in this way and to watch the excitement in the faces of these little people as they opened up their presents.
My son’s heart was changed after watching the little boy from the orphanage open up the gift that he spent so much time picking out. He later came to me and said, “This was awesome!”
Yes, it would’ve been easier for me to have bought the gift with my money, picked out the gift myself and then showed it to them, but I’m NOT going back to that again. Especially not after what I witnessed this week.
I hope to continue planting seeds of service and generosity in the hearts of my children. I’ve come across some very stingy adults who lack compassion who don’t believe in giving and serving others. Hopefully that will not be my boys but if they do, you have my permission to tap them on the shoulder and say, “Your mama taught you better then that.”