When all my children were toddlers, I wrote an article called “20 Ways to Help Children Be Givers.” Looking back at that list, we still do a lot of those things! Since I made the list a little over eight years ago, I decided I wanted to add to the list. Here are eight more thoughts I have as our children have gotten older.
Perhaps you’d like to comment and add some of your own ideas to our list.
- We talk about how mom and dad enjoy using our resources to give: It’s fun to bring a lot of food to a potluck, because not everybody is able to. We don’t inform our children every time we give, but they are keen observers and often see more than we realize. Christians give in different ways that fit our circumstances and personalities, but we all give.
- I like to get their input when I’m planning something to give. If I’m making food for a potluck, I ask them what they think people will like to eat. If I want to give some flowers to a friend, I’ll let them pick out the flowers. If I’ve volunteered to watch a friend’s young children, I’ll ask them what activities we should do to keep them busy.
- When it comes to giving to children younger than mine, I connect their experience of older children who loved them and played with them in the past. Remember when the big kids in New Mexico played with you? Now you have an opportunity to play with little kids and show the same kind of love.
- I also like to connect Matthew 25:28-40 to their kindness to little people: When you play with little kids, it’s just like you’re showing kindness to Jesus. My kids hear this Scripture passage regularly!
- I let the children pick a few special treats to have when we have company over. I want them to love inviting people over, and letting them pick out a box of sugar cereal is one way I help them look forward to company. Of course they’re excited to partake of the treats! I’ve also asked children to cut leaves and flowers from our yard to make a centerpiece, or make name cards for the table. I’m particularly interested in shaping their emotion and attitude about hospitality.
- I’m always on the lookout for meaningful gifts that my children can make. Food is easy: if I’m making a meal for a family at church, I’ll find a special treat that the kids can make. As the children are getting older, teaching them to knit, carve wood, and so on means that they’re able to give gifts that won’t get thrown away immediately. Many gifts wouldn’t be special to an adult, but would be for a child. For example, my older kids made this dinosaur for a coworker’s child’s birthday.
- I’ve also discovered that my children enjoy planning surprises for others when we do it as a family. Many of these ideas start with, “I have a great idea. Let’s…..” We have made pancakes as a family for the people who work at the hospital on Christmas day (in Lee’s NICU unit); for several years now, we have made and handed out coffee to parents trick-or-treating with their children. This year, the kids are planning an Easter egg hunt for Lee’s coworkers’ children. I’m not a great planner, but I can help them plan and provide resources.
- Finally, I want them to understand the value of time and words as gifts. Writing a specific note of thanks, helping pick up the trash after church, holding a baby at church while the mama talks, coming out of a bedroom to be with the family when they’d rather be reading– my children don’t always realize that these are meaningful gifts. Just pointing it out when I see it encourages them, and shows them the value of these acts.
It’s important for me to remember as a parent that we can give for the wrong reasons. We often have to deal with times when someone doesn’t appreciate or even rejects what we give. In those cases, it’s helpful to remember that we give to please God, and not so that someone else will think we’re wonderful. We must leave the results of our giving to God, including the results of our efforts to teach our children. They don’t always want to give. Sometimes I think they’re going to get excited about something and they don’t. Learning to give is something that is cultivated, but I can’t make it happen in their lives. If it’s a project I’m excited about, then I do the project on my own. Sometimes I require them to give, but I do that sparingly and carefully. God gets the glory for our obedience as parents to give and teach, and he will bless our efforts as he sees fit.
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:28-40
What would you add to my list?