Generosity, Gratitude, and Giving






The three big G’s.

The world, especially around the holidays, screams at us to “buy more!” and “you need this!” We’re bombarded with advertisements for more stuff…more, more, more! We become stressed and resentful. We lust after the things we want (and we’re adults!) while instead we’re supposed to be emulating the Christmas spirit for our children. 

The three G’s sound easy although in reality are quite hard–it’s hard to be generous with a willing and giving spirit. It’s difficult to maintain an attitude of gratitude. So how, as parents, can we have our kids be a reflection of what generosity is? What it looks like to be grateful? To give with a gracious spirit? 

This season, we intentionally talked to our kids about what each big G means in their own “kid” language. We asked the kids, “what do you have to give?” Kids don’t immediately know what they can offer others since they don’t typically have money and they may not have things to give away either. But thankfully, giving and generosity aren’t always about money or things. We try to teach our kids that there are other less tangible ways they can give.

  1. Time. Time is a strange concept to kids. One minute feels like an hour and sometimes an afternoon feels like only minutes. To address the concept of time with our little ones, sometimes we put on a timer or have a visual clock ticking down. As a family, we try to spend time together doing things they like and sometimes doing things others like. We talk about how our “time” spent is valuable and can be done for good. We try to help them understand that the time they spend helping their sister clean her room is of value and appreciated. The time they take to do above and beyond chores is a gift to mom. It might not be a gift we unwrap but it’s certaibly a gift just the same. As a family, this Christmas season, we brainstormed ways we can give (or give-up) our time to help others. To his credit, our son has been doing this for a while now; his idea was to get up earlier than his sisters, get ready for school really quickly, and go downstairs to lay out their cereal bars and pour their juice so they can grab it and go. We addressed with his sisters how his time is being given to serve the family.
  2. Talent. Again, talent is a strange idea to grasp in terms of generosity. Talent is a possessing a skill or ability that tends to come very naturally. Some talent is harnessed through practice and repetition. But talent isn’t just about the person who can perform it or do it. Talent can also be a gift  you give to others. My best friend’s son is really good at math. He has a natural talent for it. My daughter on the other hand, takes after me and is not so good at math. So the other day my friend’s son gave his time and generously shared his skill by “tutoring” my daughter through her math homework. Kids can teach other kids. Kids can share their talents in unique ways that can simply and easily bless both adults and peers. 
  3. Friendship. Out of the three ideas, our kids said this one was the easiest. We pushed them to verbally list ways to be a good friend— sharing toys during a play date, letting a buddy go first at the water fountain, making a friend a drawing at school. Yep, easy! But then we pushed them to think further. Times they could be a friend when it was hard. When it’s uncomfortable or awkward. This made them pause and think. It’s not so easy to sit with the one kid who doesn’t have anyone in the lunch cafeteria. Or maybe play a board game with a classmate who’s not athletic and doesn’t prefer to take part in the group soccer game. We discussed friendship sometimes looks like standing up for what’s right, not what’s popular. To be a good friend is being generous with our time, sharing our talent, and choosing to always be kind.

How does gratitude fit into all of this? Gratitude in “kid language” is giving thanks no matter the circumstance or what happens. Having an “attitude of gratitude” starts with the heart. It’s understanding that deep down, we are thankful for what we already have, not what we don’t have. And sure, this could be about money and about things, but more than that it’s being thankful for ways we can give, not receive. It’s teaching kids the concept that being grateful comes alongside giving. The two go hand in hand.