Are kids inherently selfish?
Are we born kind & generous or do we have to learn it?
How do we teach our children that the world does not revolve around them?
Do spoiled children become greedy grownups?
Sometimes the pressures of being a good parent are overwhelming as we are bombarded by these challenging questions regularly. I believe in moderation and balance in my own life so I apply that same theory to parenting. When it comes to special occasions, from birthdays to Christmas and even Easter it seems that children expect an endless showering of gifts. Of course, we love to see their eyes light up when they open the perfect gift but I can’t help notice that the lesson they are being taught is the wrong one; to receive rather than to give. My mother always taught me that giving the perfect present is just as much fun as receiving the greatest gift. I feel obligated to teach them that same principal and hope they pass it on to their kids.
In our family both boys have winter birthdays, so by the time we reach Christmas our house is exploding with toys, books & electronics. So like clockwork, in January, my obsessive compulsive disorder kicks into gear. My deep desire to clean coupled with my innate need for balance has created a tradition worth keeping. I insist that for every gift we get we have to give one away. It is easy for them to cherish a material thing but not as simple to teach them generosity. So for the last few years the boys have had to make some difficult choices on what we give to “Salvation Army”. We ceremonially fill up the boxes and deliver them to people who are less fortunate.
I still remember, as a young girl, watching my mom clean our closets for the infamous donation dump. My little sister would always exclaim “Oh no, that is my favorite outfit, don’t give it to ‘Good Wheel’, mommy!” Ironically, I became a compulsive cleaner and my sister is on the verge of being a hoarder. So how do we strike a balance as to not bore or lecture our children? How do we teach the value of money? It is not just about the math.
Our boys are sweet, kind, gentle and caring kids but they do love the idea of pocket money. A Birthday card with $5 inside sends them over the moon. Adding coins from Dada’s change drawer into their piggy bank is music to their little ears. It is one thing to save your money but most kids then want to just spend it. So another tradition we have started is to educate them on not just counting their coins but actually dividing it up into several categories. Once the piggy bank is full it is time to divide it into three categories: “spend” some, “save” some and “donate” some. The spending part is easy; it is all about Lego in our house. The savings account is simple, out of sight out of mind. The donate category still seems a bit abstract for our 6 year old but our 9 year old is finally grasping the concept.
Giving money to a good cause seemed like the best idea so we let them pick their charity of choice. As both our boys adore their furry brothers, Spike & Snoopy, donating to an animal shelter was second nature.
The time has come to empty the bulging piggy banks. As the boys separated the bills from the coins it was a great math lesson and we turned it into a contest on who could guess the amount in the gigantic coin bag. The sweet sound of the coins dropping down the bank shoot put PJ in a trance. Then his eyes opened wide when he saw $68.99 flash on the screen. I added the token penny to make it an even number and off we went to PAWS Adoption & Humane Center on Clybourn.
The boys were so proud to hand over their $10 donations. It may not seem like a lot of money to an adult but every dollar counts when giving to charity. Teaching them to enjoy the act of generosity, while giving back to the community is a lesson that makes me smile. Cultivating compassionate children is easier said than done but hopefully we can all make a difference one lesson at a time.