Riches vs Poverty – Part Two – Teaching Children Generosity

I recently shared how spending time with a pastor from the Philippines impacted our family. I felt challenged and inspired to think and live differently. It is an injustice to live amongst such wealth and to feel like we never have enough when in reality we have too much in light of the world’s poverty. It’s hard to teach our children to see this when they are being raised in a culture that teaches them to be selfish, materialistic and to value possessions and products so highly.

As we welcomed Pastor Ian for dinner I suddenly saw my home through the eyes of a person from a developing nation and became acutely aware of my children’s behavior.

Spoilt attitudes…Spoilt for Choice

Pastor Ian is very kind and overlooked the tantrums displayed by my 3 year old. My husband remarked that children in the Philippines don’t have tantrums. They also don’t whine or whinge or complain. These children are thankful when they receive one meal a day. They don’t constantly expect more as they have no choice……and there was my 3 year old writhing on the floor screaming “HURRY UP FOR DINNER MUM…I’M STARVING”…..

Sadly, my children display very spoilt attitudes at times.  Children in our culture have too many choices. What do you want for dinner kids? What do you want for your birthday? Do you want Mcdonalds, hungry jacks, KFC or red rooster for lunch today? Our children are literally, spoilt for choice so it’s no wonder they act so, well, spoilt.

Too much talking and not enough listening

I was also made aware of how much my kids talk! At one point I had to tell my son to stop talking about star wars because Pastor Ian had never heard of it! I hadn’t noticed until now that talking and trying to control conversation is actually quite common amongst children these days. It’s almost like they see themselves as equals. If so, is it any wonder they don’t always listen to us?  It’s a well known fact that today’s children don’t respect adults like they used to. It’s not that ‘children should be seen and not heard’ but surely we should encourage a healthy respect for adults. I fear that children will miss out on hearing invaluable wisdom and life lessons because they haven’t been taught to listen. I also worry that adults will stop talking because they can’t get a word in anyway!

I made the mental note to teach my children to be better listeners in respect for adults and to not always feel like they need to tell everyone everything.

A Lesson in Generosity

The best lesson we can give our children in generosity is to be the example. Let them see us being generous and doing good to others. Showing my children photos of daddy (above) helping build a kitchen and distribute food at feeding programs hopefully plants a seed in their hearts!

Pastor Ian has three small children similiar ages to my own. I asked my boys what they could do for them. My eldest suggested giving some clothes so I  instructed them to go and select clothes they would like to give. Yes, we could have bought them new stuff but I felt there was a lesson in giving out of their own abundance. I wanted them to realise how much stuff they had and how they had more than enough to share.

It wouldn’t have cost us anything (really) to buy these children some brand new clothes but that’s too easy. I wanted my boys to learn that giving is often sacrificial and the true heart of giving is giving of ourselves and putting our wants, needs and desires aside for others. So, I deliberately helped them find things they loved. You love that shirt don’t you? Do you think the little boy might also like it? Do you think you could give it to him or will you keep it for yourself? It’s your choice to make.

Each boy selected about 5 t-shirts and a 2 pairs of shorts. It barely put a dent in their clothing. We then went to the local shops to pick out a few small toys. They were very excited about doing this and seemed to really understand that they weren’t there for themselves. I was so proud of them.

Daddy told them that kids were never bored in the Philippines despite having no toys. In fact they were happy playing around with kids in the street and making up games with  rubber bands. I told my boys that although we have a lot of money to give to people in the Philippines they have a lot of wisdom to give to us.

“Give yourself entirely to those around you. Be generous with your blessings. A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.”
― Steve Maraboli

It is so important we teach our kids to be generous in a world that teaches them to see themselves as the center of the universe. We need more kids growing up with an awareness of the developing world and the understanding that they have a responsibility to help the poor not out of guilt or obligation but out of genuine love and compassion.

As parents, we have to counteract cultural messages with a home that teaches that love, compassion, kindness and generosity are more valuable than wealth and success. We must also show our children that their lives are powerful beyond understanding and that they can never underestimate the ripple effect of one small act of generosity.

There is no gift too small.

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