We all want our kids to be generous. But between working from home with kids, trying to get their homework done, and keeping up with the mountains of laundry, it’s hard to find time and space to focus on what matters most. I get it. Good news: Teaching your kids to be generous doesn’t have to be an elaborate, Pinterest-worthy event. You can just show them how it looks in your own life. Here’s what I’ve found.
What is Generosity?
First, let’s identify what generosity is. Maybe you can even ask your kids to help create a definition for your family. I would say that generosity is the act of giving more of something than is expected, usually time or money. It’s simply showing kindness to others. Just as kids are taught to share, to walk, and to read, they can also be taught to be generous.
Have you ever noticed that kids unintentionally mimic something their parents do? What you love, they tend to love. What you do, they do. What you say, they say. So, if you live a generous life, always thinking of others, your children will learn to do the same.
Being generous is believing there’s always enough to share, no matter how much you have.
When I was growing up, my family barely had enough to live on, but I still remember my parents teaching me about the four categories of money. When I was 5 years old, my parents gave me a plastic bin with four different categories where I put my coins from my allowance: tithe, save, give, and spend.
When I was 10, my parents explained how much they spent every month on our family’s groceries and utilities, and how much time or money they donated to local charities. They made a point of teaching me that when they got paid, they always gave 10 percent to the local church first. By teaching me this, I learned not only what they valued but also why it mattered.
Three questions you can ask your kids to help them be generous:
1. How has God been generous with you? What are things you can help your children recognize as gifts from God? Maybe it’s a family member or friend who loves them, being forgiven when they make a mistake, a warm house, running water, or even their favorite toy. God is so generous with us! (See James 1:17, Ephesians 1:3, John 3:16, and Matthew 6:30-33.)
2. When someone gives you something, how does it make you feel? In light of how we ourselves enjoy receiving thoughtful gifts, we should look for opportunities to share what we have with others! We share what we have because God first gave His only Son to us.
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:16 ESV
3. When you give something, how does it make you feel? Connect the act of giving to the reason we give. It’s fun to give, and God is pleased when we love others as He loved us!
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV
Let your child begin to practice being generous. Maybe they’ll ask to help a neighbor or friend with a chore. Maybe they’ll want to buy someone a small gift for their birthday, or perhaps they’ll want to help Grandma or Grandpa carry their bags into the house when they come to visit. These are all gifts of generosity. And when kids understand what God has given them, the joy of giving gifts to others is an overflow of what they already feel inside!
Recently, my 9-year-old son was playing with a friend at our home. He has a large collection of Legos, and the friend who came over had very few. After the friend left, he said, “Hey Mom, my friend doesn’t have very many Legos. I never realized how many I have until today, but I feel very rich to have them. Would it be okay if I spend my Christmas money to buy my friend a Lego set that he wants, and send it to his house as a surprise? I think he would really love that!”
It wasn’t something I suggested to my son, but after years of practice and lots of conversations about how our family always thinks of others, he couldn’t wait to give! Teaching your kids to be generous probably won’t happen overnight. But when you make it a habit to talk about it and model it, the lesson will stick.
Remember that giving is a posture of the heart, and the reason we give in the first place is that God gave us everything. Because He gave first, we can give with a joyful heart!