Updated: Apr 6
Generosity is something that we all need to incorporate more in our lives. But what is the definition of generous? How do we live it out daily & how do we go about teaching generosity to the next generation?
In the decade that I have been a parent, and in the past five years that I have been a homeschool mom, I have realized just how often I am learning the same lessons that I am teaching to my children.
Okay, maybe I already knew how to carry the one, and where the apostrophe goes in a plural possessive, but the other things I find myself struggling with just as much as my six-year-old. Generosity is not exempt here.
Teaching generosity should be an easy thing to teach: who doesn’t want to be known as generous? We’ve all watched and read The Christmas Carol every year; no one wants to be labeled a Scrooge. But, what exactly goes into being generous? And how do you teach it to your kids?
According to Webster, GENEROSITY is a person who is
Liberal in giving
Characterized by a noble or kindly spirit
5 Lessons in Learning (and Teaching) Generosity
In recent years, generosity has become something that I have begun to be very intentional about. And, as is so often the case, I find myself teaching generosity to my young children on an almost daily basis.
#1 Generosity is about more than money.
Not all seasons in our lives are monetarily prosperous ones. Some years, we have been underemployed, and all of our money went to expenses. Some years, we have had expensive emergencies crop up, like that unexpected oral surgery my son needed or that time the alternator just went out in our one car.
Though money may be the first thing you think of when you consider how to be generous, it is not the only way to share.
Consider talking with your children about their strengths and how they can use them to give to others.
Are you handy? Ask if there is work that local shelters need done.
Do you love talking with people? Volunteer in a capacity that allows you to directly interact with those you are trying to serve.
Generosity of time is one of the biggest gifts we can give another. Let your children see you volunteer your talents, and help them use their own gifts and natural tendencies to give back to others.
The Bautista Project is looking for people of all ages and all skills who are willing to give of their time.
#2 Generosity is about what others need
Teaching empathy to my children has often felt like a daunting task. How do you teach kids to think about others’ needs in a way that they can comprehend?
Giving physical donations (such as food or toiletries) to a food bank or homeless shelter is a good place to start.
There are often specific needs that shelters request donations for to help with a specific issue.
Check the website of where you are considering donating to see what they might need. It might be unexpected: talk with your kids about why they might need toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, warm socks, etc.
There might be rules about what they can or cannot accept: you can discuss why the things you donate might have to be shelf-stable, or why you can’t donate something you have partially used. Steer the conversation to talk about why it is important to give what they actually need, not just what you might have lying around or what might be on sale that week.
#3 Generosity is often about the little things
Don’t give in to the faulty thinking that you and your children can’t make a difference. Because you can. I have seen so often in my own life and in the lives of those around me that it really does come down to the little things: a cup of coffee, or a smile, or a hello.
Don’t get discouraged before you start that you are not making “enough” of a difference, that your gift may not go as far as another’s has gone. Generosity is not a comparison game, but rather a shift in recognizing the inherent worth of every individual you meet.
#4 Generosity is quiet
While many of the lessons I have had to teach my children do not come easily (I guess there wouldn’t be much to teach if we were born knowing all of this), teaching humility is definitely up there on the difficulty list.
We all want to be thanked for what we do; to be recognized for our efforts and sacrifice. To compound the difficulty of teaching this lesson, I am a stickler about writing thank you notes.
How do you teach a child that you are required to express thankfulness for what you are given and simultaneously not expect a thanks?
To be honest, I still struggle with it. But, start with the expectation that what you do as a family will stay in the family. I know how tempting it is to snap a quick selfie and post it on social media in hopes that others will recognize what you are doing. (So tempting!)
Instead, reinforce your gratitude to your own children. Tell them how proud you are of their work, and let them be proud of themselves in a “I worked hard and it feels good” sort of way.
The rewards come in other ways, in the knowing that what you have done has made a difference in the life of another person. It’s the small acts that lead us to a better tomorrow.
#5 Generosity is worth it
I have been trying to explain to our kids what dial-up was like! Fast-food and high speed internet make the concept of waiting harder to grasp.
It is tempting to give convenience a much larger consideration than it should be.
Generosity is rarely convenient.
Thinking of others does not come naturally.
Giving to another WILL cost; whether it be time, money, or resources. But it’s worth it.
People are always worth it.
About the author:
Laura Schofield is teaching her kids to be world changers. In between homeschooling three kiddos, being a military spouse, and running QuietDaysMagazine.com, you’ll find her quilting, cooking, reading, and spending time with friends.