Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I Don't Want to Give Until it Hurts, I Want to Give Until it Doesn't Hurt Anymore

Toddlers are selfish, they want it all, they want it now and they don't want to share. Teaching generosity is a wonderful thing to do for any family, but especially when you have the "extra" time as a stay at home mom. I wish I had started sooner, but it just never occurred to me that they would understand that concept at a young age. For everyday situations we expect our kids to share ALL of their toys with each other and with friends, the only item they don't have to share is their lovey but they are usually pretty good about comforting each other with them anyway. We also try to give one child the food/toys/items and tell them one is for them and the other is for their sibling. Even my 18 month old will carry two bowls of fruit and give one to her brother, which makes her feel very proud of herself and helpful. I'm a type A who likes to get things done, but I know that putting in the time now will pay off later, if only I could remember it more often!

My sister-in-law does a great job of consistently talking to her children about other peoples' needs, feelings and perspectives. Both of her children are very considerate of others and have positive attitudes, as well as are productive contributors even at their young ages of three and five. I like to think about them when I'm wanting to hurry up and take the short cut.

Our kids have an insane amount of toys and books, maybe not compared to some children but definitely relative to most kids in the world. There is no way they can play with them all everyday or even every week, and instead of storing the toys in cycles and bringing in some at a time, we have decided we'd like our kids to learn to share them by giving them away. Now each week when we go to church we pick out a toy or book to bring and donate to the nursery for all the kids to enjoy. When we first brought this up with our son he was distraught and crying, which actually made me realize even more that we needed to do this. When the time came to pick a toy, I suggested one that he's a little old for now, but was a favorite when he was younger. I was nervous we'd have a complete meltdown at church, but he surprised us by carrying it inside and placing it down in the nursery where it was happily explored by the other children immediately. No tears, no fuss and on the way home we talked about how it feels good to give to others. So now our children are "tithing" too.

No matter what we say, our children will do what we do so it's important to model the behaviors we want to see in them (I should post that little statement all over my house-maybe it would prevent me from yelling). I do recommend selling items on craigslist or eBay when you are finished with them, but it is also great to give your stuff away. I know I would much rather give something to a friend than make a few dollars, and we have been the recipients of many friends' generosity--it's a wonderful feeling to give as well as receive! I think the important part is sharing with our children what we are doing, bring them along when you drop off a carload at the thrift store, let them put the money in the offering basket at church or talk about the organizations you are donating to and how that money will change peoples' lives.

You might be thinking you're just not in the position to give away much right now, it will happen later, but there are plenty of ways to get creative about giving. When we were going through a layoff and unemployment we donated our time each week to deliver lunches for a meals on wheels program in Atlanta with our son. We also organized a yard sale where all of the money was donated to Food For The Hungry to send vaccines and medical supplies overseas to third world countries. Since we didn't have much to sell, we got the word out to friends and neighbors and were given more than we could even fit! My husband and I talk about how even if we won the lottery we could never spend a lot of money on cars, clothes, etc. and I would still probably be clipping coupons! You can be thrifty and generous at the same time, in fact the more you save the more you'll have to give away!

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