How many of us grew up hearing, “Eat your vegetables! People are starving in Africa?”
As a child, I could never understand the connection between the broccoli on my plate and the hunger of people on another continent. Let’s be honest; most American children would be delighted to send their vegetables away to Africa or anywhere besides their own dinner plates.
Now that I’m a parent, I’ve started to understand the perspective of parents who remind their children about hunger around the world. When my kids fuss about the food I’ve served them, I fear that I’m raising self-entitled, spoiled children. I want my kids to grow up with hearts of gratitude for what they have, and attitudes of generosity toward people who are vulnerable.
Thankfully, there are ways to grow generous hearts in our kids without inducing guilt. Here are a few ideas.
1. Watch your language
Be aware of the way your kids talk about hunger. Find teaching opportunities.
In my home, we avoid using the word “starving” when we feel hungry. I blogged about this decision a few months ago, when I was growing weary of hearing my daughters proclaim that their hunger was starvation.
By pointing out language that trivializes poverty, you can help your whole family to honor the poor.
2. Create generous moments
Whenever your children interact with money, look for opportunities to teach generosity.
It’s important to teach children about money from an early age, whether it’s through a weekly allowance, paying them for chores, or finding other spending and earning experiences.
My husband and I give our daughters a weekly allowance. On allowance day each week, I sit down with each daughter and fill in a ledger. They allocate a portion of their allowance as a tithe at church and another portion to savings. They receive the remainder in cash.
Each week I ask, “Would you like to donate part of your allowance?” Usually the answer is no, and that’s alright. But sometimes their generosity astounds me. There have been times when Linda has chosen to donate all of her cash to Food for the Hungry. Other times, she’ll donate her change after shopping.
When my kids choose not to give, I don’t place any guilt on them. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), and I certainly believe that there can be great joy in giving! So when they do choose to give, I praise their decision. Sometimes I’ll say, “I bet you feel great about your choice. I’m so glad about the way God is growing your heart.”
We keep a jar in the kitchen for donations. When it’s full, we’ll write a check for the amount to Food for the Hungry’s “Where Needed Most” fund.
3. Be the example
Your kids are watching how you spend your money. I hope this realization doesn’t make you nervous, but instead brings excitement. Every spending opportunity is also a chance to show your kids what generosity looks like.
Next time you forego buying something you wanted, tell your child about it. Mention that you’d rather give to the poor than have whatever it was that you sacrificed.
If you sponsor a child as a family, talk about why this is an important investment.
Always show your children the joy that comes from giving. If generosity feels more like a chore than a blessing to you, ask God to give you His delight. Your attitude will certainly spill over into the lives of your children!
I hope you find these tips useful for teaching generosity to your children. What are some other ways you’ve found to teach your children to be generous?