Children are just like us… we practice occasional acts of kindness toward others, but more generally take an outlook focused on ourselves. How can we encourage acts of kindness so children’s perspectives focus outward more often — on the gifts they have to contribute to the world? On the good they can do for others? On understanding the feelings and perspectives of others?
Think through this list with one specific child in mind.
- I support the child’s wish to offer hospitality through his or her invitations to family, friends and even strangers.
- I use my money, time and talents for the good of myself and my family while also considering the needs of others. The child has seen me set aside money for charitable contributions.
- I encourage the child to use his or her own money, time and talents in service to others. I can then point to specific ways the child did this.
- When praying, I notice I am able to say “Thanks God,” in addition to asking for favors. Many times I tell the child what I am thankful for and we talk about gratitude.
- When the child practices spontaneous acts of kindness or generosity, I notice and point it out to the child.
Such a posture doesn’t come about naturally for most of us.
It requires some effort and intentionality, as seen in this parent’s story.
My daughter, now 13, still remembers the morning we passed a woman at an intersection with a sign asking for help. Being 5 years old, she could read the words “Hungry. Have some spare change? Anything helps.”
As my daughter reached for the spare change I keep in the car for parking meters, I explained, “Sometimes it’s not good to give money directly, but her sign says she is hungry, so maybe she would like some breakfast.”
At that, my daughter brightened and we drove around the block to pass the woman again. She readily agreed to breakfast and smiled at my cute curly-haired girl.
We had breakfast at the 24-hour diner on the corner and listened to some of her story she was willing to share.
It left a lasting impression on my daughter, as well as a continuing desire to help the poor.
Review the five points again. What are some ways you can help the children in your life practice generous living?
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