Since the day our child was born, I worked on one word with him: Dada. I read books about it, repeated it, sung it, and finally, after six months, my hard work was going to pay off. We were in our car. He began to babble. After a minute or so of rambling, it happened. His first word.
Well, I tried. He’s learned Dada since then, but it got me thinking about why he learns some words earlier than others. One especially has stuck out to me.
Talk to a few toddlers, and you’ll hear this word a lot. Yet it usually takes a while longer for them to learn the word yours. I’ll admit, m is probably easier than y, but toddlers may also be picking up on something deeper. We don’t usually put others first—it’s something we have to learn. In other words, if we want generous kids, we need to teach them to put yours before mine.
We probably all want our kids to live generously. We want our toddlers to share and play well with others. We want elementary schoolers to respect their teachers and be kind to their classmates. We want our teenagers to support causes they’re passionate about and make a difference in the world. Whatever age your kids are, there are a few things you can do to help them live generously.
1. Watch for ways to be generous daily.
As with so many things, this begins with our example as parents. If kids don’t see role models of practicing generosity regularly, it’s hard to imagine themselves living generously. Look for small things you could do that your kids, spouse, or neighbors might appreciate. Does your neighbor need a new snow shovel? Take your kids to the store and pick one out to give to them. Does your kid have friends coming over all the time? Learn what their favorite meals are and serve them when they are over. Generosity simply means thinking of others first—and the more we do that, the more it will make sense to our kids.
2. Talk about generosity.
When you see a way to be generous, talk about it with your child. Involve them in the process. Before long, they will start to see the needs of others. When you see your child doing something kind or generous, encourage them. Make “I” statements, like: “When you helped that kid in your class, I felt so happy and proud of you.”
You can even make this a game! Watch for people while you’re driving around, and talk about ways you could be kind or generous to them. What do you think they would they like to receive? Do they need help? What could we do? You don’t have to act on all your ideas, but you might discover that you want to.
3. Find a cause your kids care about.
The more you talk about generosity as a family, the more you’ll understand what your kids care about. Whether you’re giving to the family next door or sponsoring a child overseas, it’s important to remember that kids think concretely. Do whatever you can to make generosity concrete for your kids. Show them pictures of or letters from the people you are sponsoring overseas. Let them write a letter to someone you sponsor. Let them fill out the dollar amount on a check you’re going to donate before you sign it (another great learning experience). Try making a meal together to give away.
Finally, when you discover that your kid cares about a cause, encourage them! Do whatever it takes to give them a chance to be generous. Help them raise money, drive them across town—do whatever it takes and don’t miss this opportunity. When we put “Yours” before “Mine,” our families, communities, and world will be changed—and our children can be the ones to make that happen.