Tag Archive for generosity

8 Ways to Teach Children to Be Kind to Others

  1. Model kindness. You didn’t think I would start anyplace else, did you? Whatever we want our children to learn, we have to practice ourselves. So, be kind to your children. Be kind to your spouse. Be kind to friends. Be kind to strangers.
  2. HandEncourage children to think kindly about others. Here are three ways you might consider doing this include: Pray for others. Take turns with your children recalling kind deeds you observed during the day. Take turns with your children recalling kind deeds you engaged in during the day.
  3. Let your children take personal responsibility for the acts of kindness they engage in. Instead of giving your child money to donate to a charity, let them earn the money through chores and give a portion of their choice to the charity they choose. Be creative coming up with ways your children can take personal responsibility in their show of kindness.
  4. Teach your children to consider other people’s feelings. You can do this by acknowledging their emotions—“That seems like it really makes you sad” or “Wow, you really look happy.” Acknowledge other people’s emotions as well.  Perhaps a friend was mean because “he doesn’t feel well” or a friend was crying because “she gets sad when people tease her.” You get the idea. Help your child look beyond the outward behavior to see the underlying emotion.
  5. Expose your child to need. Of course, we need to do this at an age appropriate level, but do not shelter your child from the needs around them. Depending on their age, they might understand the need for water in some countries, an elderly person’s need for friendly interaction, or a friend’s need for a hug.
  6. Along with exposing your child to need, give them the opportunity to volunteer and meet the needs of others. This can range from helping an elderly neighbor with yard work to working with an inner city food bank to raising money for a mission to taking a mission trip. When you child sees a need and expresses a desire to help, assist them in volunteering.
  7. Create giving traditions. As a family, develop traditions that involve giving to one another and to those outside your family. You might give toys to a charity each year or a financial donation to some charity. Maybe you will give gifts to friends and neighbors at special times throughout the year. Be creative and develop some giving traditions.
  8. Encourage small acts of kindness. Teach your child to pick up trash rather than simply pass it by. Encourage your child to hold the door open for others, speak politely, offer to pick up something they see another person drop, give a hug to a friend in need…the list goes on. Encourage small acts of kindness.


What are some ways your family has carried out these 8 suggestions? What other suggestions would you add? How have you taught your children to be kind?

Pay It Forward…The Surprising “Rest of the Story” For Your Family

We all know and love the “pay it forward” stories. Just last Christmas (2013), a customer at Starbucks generously paid for the order of the next person in line, who also paid for the person in line behind them, and so on…for 1,468 customers! (Read this story here) I also Parents kissing their cute little babylove the commercial (Watch it here) for “Random Acts of Kindness” in which one person shows kindness, inspiring the recipient of that act of kindness to show kindness to another person, who is inspired to do the same…and on down the line, contributing to an ongoing spiral of kindness that results in an Utopian environment of generosity and joy. We love these stories…. I love these stories. But, research suggests this is only part of the story. As Paul Harvey used to say, we need to know “the rest of the story.” People do not only pay generosity and kindness forward. We also pay greed forward. In fact, generosity gets paid forward more often as equality and fairness not as more generosity. And, people tend to pay greed forward more vigorously than generosity. Research suggests this is true for work tasks as well as finances. So, if we are the recipients of a stingy, greedy gift…or, if we are given the worst chores while someone else does the easier, “more enjoyable” chores, we may pass on the greedy, boring task out of our frustration and anger.


What does this mean for our families? An act of kindness to another family member may actually inspire more acts of kindness. A show of generosity toward family may promote more “fair sharing” among family members in the future. Acts of kindness and generosity can create an environment that promotes further kindness and sharing, an upward spiral leading to greater intimacy, joy, and celebration. On the other hand, sticking other family members with the worst chores will encourage them to do the same to another family member. Stinginess, greed, and self-centered actions and decisions by a family member can create a family environment promoting further greed and self-centeredness, a downward spiral leading to further frustration, isolation, and pain. Which environment will you promote in your family? The choice is yours. Start building an upward spiral by practicing kindness and generosity within your family.


By the way, if you find your family already in a downward spiral initiated by stinginess, greed, and self-centeredness, there is hope! The study mentioned earlier also found the negative emotions that drive us to pay greed forward can be reduced and even reversed. In the study, simply having a person rate how much they enjoyed three cartoons (a fun, humorous task) reduced the likelihood of passing the greed forward. So, if your family is caught in the downward spiral of stinginess and self-centeredness, reverse the cycle by stopping “one thing” and introducing “two new things.”  First, stop “one thing”—engaging in stingy, self-centered behavior. Second, introduce “two new things”—kindness and generosity. Think about the other person and offer to do the more menial task (an act of generosity and kindness). Third, add some fun into your family. Play some fun game. Share some funny cartoons or your favorite joke. You can do all three of these things at the same time. Do all three and watch as your family spiral changes direction and becomes an upward spiral motivated by kindness, generosity, and celebration.

6 Simple Ways to Build Happy Families

My oldest daughter is leaving for college this month. As she prepares to leave, I have thought about how I want her to remember her time growing up with us. (Yes I know, I should have thought about that 18 years ago; and, I did begin thinking about it then. I guess the woman who said, “You’re a slow thinker” was right.) Anyway, I hope my daughter recalls our family as a family filled with happiness. I hope that in the process of growing up, we have taught her the skills needed to create happiness in her own life as well. Here are some ways that you can build a family environment of happiness as well…before your daughter gets ready to leave for college!

     ·     Teach generosity. Generous people are happy people. To create a happy family, practice generosity. Practice generosity toward one another. Practice generosity toward those outside your family.  Tip with generosity. Share with generosity. Model generosity.

·     Encourage exercise. Research has shown over and over that exercise contributes to happiness. So, as a family, develop an active lifestyle. Go for walks together. Ride your bike. Hike. Walk to the store once in a while rather than taking the car all the time. Work out together. Play Ultimate Frisbee. Enjoy physical activity as a family.

·     Teach to plan ahead. Anticipation builds excitement and happiness. Think about the excitement we experience as we anticipate the generous sharing of Christmas or the achievement of some goal we have worked toward. You can build this anticipation by involving the whole family in planning for various family celebrations such as holidays or birthdays. My kids love planning a surprise for their mother’s birthday or Mother’s Day; and, even a small surprise builds joy and happiness. Discover your children’s interests and help them set small achievable goals in those areas. Watch their excitement and happiness grow as they achieve these small steps. 

·     Listen to music. Enjoy music together. Sing, dance, and make music together. Or, join a choir as a family. Enjoy a concert. It is hard to be sad and unhappy for very long when you are enjoying music together. (Read this to learn more about the power of music for families)

·     Build friendships. Develop friendships with people with whom you can share adventures. Not only can you experience the adventure with your friends, you can also
 recall the adventures with your friends. Recalling our shared adventures is almost as fun as the actual adventure…sometimes even more fun. Develop friendships as a family. Encourage your children to develop friendships as individuals.

·     List three good things that happened. At the end of each day, tell your family about three good things that happened today. Listen as they tell you about three good things that happened to them. Studies have found that recalling the good events of each day can increase happiness and decrease depression.

 Practicing the six activities above can help fill you family with joy and happiness. Your family will be a place filled with happiness, a place your children will remember as happy. As your children start families of their own, your home can remain a place of happiness, a place your grandchildren will want to visit because of the happiness that fills every corridor…and that will definitely increase your happiness!

Celebrate Lent As A Family

Lent begins this week. The observance of Lent reminds us to prepare our lives for the coming Christ. Traditionally, people observe Lent by practicing some sort of fasting (giving something up), generous compassion toward others (justice), and prayer (communion with God). To me, this sounds like a great opportunity to practice grace in our family as well as in the world at large. Grace begins with giving others the gift of acceptance. It builds to giving to others, and culminates in giving ourselves up for the benefit of others. What better place to learn and practice grace than in our family? With that in mind, I wanted to offer you a calendar of daily ideas for observing Lent with your family. The Family Lent Calendar focuses on aspects of grace (giving acceptance, giving of ourselves, and self-sacrifice) as we prepare for Easter.

The Family Lent Calendar (like grace) begins with giving up our pride so we can give the gift of unconditional acceptance. As a family, we learn to accept one another just as Christ accepted us (Romans 15:7). Christ accepted us (and even engaged in self-sacrifice for us) while we were still helpless disappointments who engaged in activities that set us at enmity with Him (Romans 5:6-10). Don’t get me wrong, He still convicts us of wrong behavior and disciplines us. However, in the midst of that teaching, conviction, and discipline He accepts us. He continues to come alongside of us and show us kindness. Since we have experienced Christ’s acceptance, we practice accepting one another. Family offers a great training ground for this type of unconditional acceptance. In fact, if we cannot learn to accept our family, how can we accept those outside of our family? For this reason, the Family Lent Calendar begins with accepting one another.

Acceptance sets the stage for grace, but grace quickly moves to giving, especially giving of ourselves. As a result, the Family Lent Calendar includes giving our time, attention, and energy to one another. Family helps us learn to generously give our full attention to others without distraction or selfish motive. We learn to give the energy necessary to share the burden of sorrowful emotions and the celebration of joyful emotions within the family. Family provides us the opportunity to invest our time and energy in sharing accountability, forgiveness, and deep connection.

Grace not involves giving of ourselves, it also includes giving ourselves up. Self-sacrifice is the pinnacle of grace. Each time we graciously give of ourselves, we practice some level of self-denial. I sacrifice “my desires” to benefit “us” as a family. I give up “my time” in order to invest that time in “our” family. I give up some of “my availability” to sports games, work, or music in order to remain available to “our” family. Studies suggest that families that willingly sacrifice for one another grow more intimate, share more joy, and experience more long-term stability. A level of self-denial contributes to healthy family life. The Family Lent Calendar makes several suggestions to help you offer this level of grace to one another in the family.

I hope you will review the Family Lent Calendar. Even if you do not use the whole calendar, consider the ideas on the calendar and implement some in your family this Easter season. As you do, you will prepare yourself and your family for Easter by sharing grace—acceptance, generous giving, and self-denial.

Build A Family Legacy of Hospitality

One evening while in college, a friend, his girlfriend, and I were invited to enjoy dinner at the home of my friend’s grandmother. While she fixed dinner, someone knocked on the door. We opened the door to discover a traveling salesman advertising his wares…vacuums in this case. My friend’s grandmother invited him in and allowed him to demonstrate the amazing feats of his vacuum. We all listened while he told us about power, cleanliness, and pricing. She did not buy a vacuum that day. However, while he finished his spiel, my friend’s grandmother set the table, carefully arranging the dishes and chairs to allow for one extra place at the table. As he packed up to leave, she invited him to stay for dinner…and he stayed! That vacuum salesman did not sell a vacuum in that house, but he did enjoy a wonderful dinner before he left. I often remember that incident…a stranger invited in for a dinner, no charge, no expectation, just the hospitality of a good meal and conversation. That day, I learned a lesson on hospitality…I watched as a legacy of hospitality took shape right before my eyes!


Throughout my life, various people have shown great hospitality to me. They have allowed me to sleep in their homes and eat their food. Hospitable people have allowed me to watch TV with them and even let my clumsy hands help them with various projects. One hospitable person even met me at the border of Mexico, escorted me on a bus into Mexico, allowed me to stay at his home, fed me his food, and walked for over half a day to bring back fresh water for me to drink. That is hospitality!


Hospitality is a wonderful legacy to leave our families, a legacy our children can witness as they grow up and emulate when they start their own home. We can build a legacy of hospitality in a couple of ways. First, practice hospitality in your own home…model it. Invite others to share meals with you. Invite guests to visit in your home. This will mean making your home environment welcoming. I used to visit homes for work. Many homes I visited were very hospitable. Some, however, were not hospitable. In some homes I felt like I was not allowed to converse because the TV took priority…or the home was so filled with clutter that I had no place to sit and no one seemed to care that I could not sit. These homes were not conducive to hospitality. They were not welcoming. To practice hospitality, create a home environment that is welcoming to others. Make sure your teens know that there are chips, apples, and oranges for their friends to snack on when they come to visit. Have a place to sit where everyone can see one another and freely talk to one another. Be sure to keep a supply of games for all to enjoy.


Second, quit worrying about whether your home is spotless. Of course, we want it clean enough that no one is uncomfortable, but don’t worry about perfection. Instead of spending your time worrying about every crumb, every ring left by a glass on the coffee table, and every piece of dust, spend your time connecting with the people who come to your home. Instead of rushing around making sure that the food is perfectly prepared and a visual delight, invest your time in talking with your guests. Be a “Mary” rather than a “Martha.” Get to know your guests. Let them experience your acceptance. Connect with them.


A legacy of hospitality will provide you and your family hours of enjoyment and an abundance of positive memories. It will instill a sense of hospitality in your children that they can take with them anywhere they go. You may find them showing polite hospitality in a store by talking with a stressed mother and even allowing her to go through the check-out line first; or, friendly hospitality to the check-out clerk who is having a bad day. A little hospitality in the home will have ripple effects in your family and community.


I like what Lauren Winner says in her book Mudhouse Sabbath. She reminds us that the practice of hospitality is actually modeled after God’s example. God created the world and then invited us in. Although we have made our messes in His creation, He still invites us in. When God became a man and walked the earth as Jesus, He ate with us and entered into our lives. Today, God still invites us into His life. Even more, He invites us into His family! Now that is a legacy of hospitality!

Now That’s A Legacy!

I have heard adults talking about children and making statements like, “He’s got an anger problem, just like his father…” or, “She’s a gossip, just like her mother…” or, “He is so selfish. His grandmother was the same way.” What a terrible family legacy to pass on to our children! I don’t know about you, but I want to pass on a legacy better than “angry,” “gossip,” “selfish,” or any other negative label. I’d rather pass on a legacy of generosity, thoughtfulness, hospitality, gratitude, or kindness. I think I might like to begin the legacy with generosity. A study entitled “Give and You Shall Receive” found that giving generosity to one’s spouse led to greater happiness and marital quality. I like that idea. Moreover, giving generosity had a greater impact than receiving generosity. That finding stands in opposition to our cultural message that close relationships and even marriages “exist primarily to enhance individual happiness and [individual] growth”…in other words, to make me happy. Why would “freely and abundantly giving good things to one’s spouse” increase marital quality and happiness? I’m glad you asked.
     1.      We have to learn about our spouse in order to give her something she will find meaningful. Not everyone finds a bouquet of flowers meaningful; so, we have to become a student of our spouse to discover their interests, likes, and dislikes. We have to know what our spouse considers a “good thing” to receive. Perhaps, in terms of Chapman’s love languages, our spouse might think it a “good thing” to receive “words of affirmation.” On the other hand, they might not. They might consider it a “good thing” to receive “acts of service,” “quality time,” “physical touch,” or “gifts” instead. We have to become a student of our spouse to figure that out!

2.      Not only do we have to become a student of our spouse, we have to take the initiative to act on the knowledge we gain. We have to make practical use of that information. Having a “head knowledge” of what pleases our spouse does no good unless we put it to practical use…unless we act on it. Generosity involves the actual act of “giving” some gift “freely and abundantly.” In the end, “actions speak louder than words” when it comes to generosity.

3.      When our spouse receives a “good thing” from us, they feel greater self-worth. They know that we considered them valuable enough to learn about them. They also know that we find them valuable enough to invest the time and energy necessary to act on that information as well. In addition, their love toward us (the generous spouse) increases.

4.      When our spouse receives a “good thing” from us, it boosts their gratitude and appreciation as well. They become more thankful.
Overall, generosity in marriage increases the satisfaction of both spouses. That’s a “win-win” proposition. Even more, generosity in a marriage will impact the children. The children will witness the generosity of their parents toward one another and, most likely, be the recipient of that same generosity displayed toward them. They will witness the joy of giving “freely and abundantly” to the one’s you love. They will also experience the joy of receiving generosity. As parents model and teach generosity, their children will soon learn the joys of giving and practice the art of giving as well. We will have created a legacy of generosity that will outlive our lifetime and flourish in the generations to come. Can’t you just hear the statements of that legacy? “You are just like your grandfather; he was so generous!” “You really know how to give great gifts, just like your mother.” Now that’s a legacy!

Carry the Beauty of Christmas into Next Year!

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas filled with family, joy, and peace. Many people enjoyed receiving presents during the Christmas season…I know I did. Even more, I enjoyed giving presents to others. I love to see peoples’ faces light up in response to a well-chosen gift. But, Christmas is more than merely exchanging material gifts. Christmas commemorates and celebrates God’s gift of His Son, Emmanuel—a gift that humbly reveals God to us. I find it amazing that God, the All-Knowing All-Powerful Creator, did not reveal Himself as the Majestic King of Heaven, the Almighty Creator of the Universe, or a Conquering Warrior, but as a servant, born a Baby in humble circumstances. That Baby, God Incarnate, grew to become a humble Servant. Jesus, God’s gift to us, “made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…” when He came to earth. We celebrate Christmas because on that first Christmas day God gave us a gift—Jesus, His humble servant. Jesus came into the world to humbly serve mankind (Mark 10:45) and spent a lifetime doing so. We can follow Jesus example of serving as we start a new year; remembering that, in God’s eyes, the humble actions of a servant are acts of beauty and love. In His Kingdom, acts of service represent true greatness. They reflect His image. Our acts of service, like those of Jesus, humbly reveal God to the world.
We can carry the true beauty of Christmas into the next year by continuing to reveal the beauty and love of God to our family and neighbors through humble acts of service. By serving others, we reflect the servant nature of the Christ whose birth we celebrated on Christmas day. We reveal the God who made Christmas possible. We reflect the image in which God created us. So, how can we serve others this year?
     ·         First, serve your family. Serve your family breakfast in bed. Serve your family by taking over a family member’s chore for a day. (As I write this, my daughter—who had her wisdom teeth pulled earlier today—asked, through swollen cheeks and a “pain-medication-induced-confusion,” if I would pour her a drink. How could I say no?)

·         Buy presents for a less fortunate family or for children in an orphanage or other type of residential placement.

·         Help serve food at local soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
·         Take a plate of cookies to shut-ins or a local nursing home.

·         Visit with the elderly—play games with them and sing some songs.

·         Arrange to visit children in a local children’s hospital.

·         Participate with a well-known organization that serves those less fortunate. Angel Tree, Operation Christmas Child, or Toys for Tots are organizations that help provide Christmas presents for needy children and families. Compassion and World Vision are two organizations that help provide support to needy families throughout the year.

·         Take an inventory of any extra coats, boots, clothes and toys in your house. Gather them up and take them to a local facility that serves the needy.

·         Deliver homemade bake treats for local firemen, policemen, emergency response crews, nurses.
The Spirit of Christmas is more than just the exchanging of gifts. The Spirit of Christmas involves the giving of ourselves in service to others, just like Christ served us by giving Himself to us in obedience to His Father. As I write this blog, I realize the need to remind myself of this message more than anyone else. In fact, I need to hear the words that a Storyteller once used to end a great story of serving. After telling of a man who served with all he had, the Storyteller tells His audience to “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). Will you join me?

How to Change Your Child’s Sense of Entitlement into Gratitude

Children often act like they believe themselves entitled: entitled to have their needs and wants satisfied immediately; entitled to not suffer, work, or adapt to the rules; entitled to have what others have; entitled to be in control. You’ve seen it in action. Your child wants a cookie and you tell them to wait until after dinner. They complain, “Why do I have to wait? I want it now!” Our son asks for a new bike and we suggest they work to help pay for it. They protest, “But Joey already has his new bike and his parents bought it. Can’t you buy it with your credit card?” Our daughter asks to stay out later than curfew. We explain the curfew and the reason for the curfew but our daughter does not want to adjust to the rules; she wants the rules to adapt to her desires. Yes, our children often seem to have a sense of entitlement. How does a parent respond? How can we help them mature into a sense of gratitude instead of a sense of entitlement? Here are some tips to move our child from entitlement and replace it with a sense of gratitude.
Model Gratitude. If we want our children to develop a sense of gratitude, we have to model it in our own lives. Make it a practice to say “thank you” when others show you kindness and courtesy. Thank your children when they complete a task or show a kindness. Express gratitude for the blessings you receive throughout the day. Spend more time acknowledging the things for which you are grateful and less time complaining about the things you wish you had or the things that frustrate you. Let you children see a grateful person in you. Ultimately, they want to be just like you.
Give Generously. Give generously of your material blessings, your time, your energy, and your affection. Let your children see that generously sharing your material blessings ranks above amassing great personal wealth. Let them witness your generosity toward the waitress or other public servants. Let them see you give generous affection to friends and family. Exhibit a generous giving of your time in common courtesies and acts of kindness for your children to see. Meet your children’s needs with an overflowing abundance of generosity. Let your children observe your generous spirit in all circumstances.
Withhold Wisely. Yes, give generously. Meet your children’s needs abundantly and generously. But, when your children make a self-focused request that reveals their sense of entitlement, withhold wisely. When your children demand that you satisfy their every want and desire or expects you to change the rules to alleviate their need to adapt, withhold wisely. Your children will get frustrated and even voice that frustration: “That’s not fair,” “But my friend gets to…,” “You are so mean.” However, they also learn several important messages. They learn the difference between a want and a need, that not every want is a need.  They learn that the same person they trust to generously meets their needs will also, at times, deny their desires. Most importantly, they learn that the parents who generously meets their needs and wisely holds back from satisfying every desire, is acting for their benefit. They learn the difference between a want and a true need. They learn to be grateful for all that they have, both out of need and desire.
Build Traditions of Gratitude. Find ways to build thankfulness into the fabric of your family life. Offer thanks before meals. Spend time each day sharing things for which you are grateful. Learn to offer one another thanks throughout the day.   Creatively explore ways to thank others as a family—a homemade card, a family song, a poem, or other way to share thanks.
So we have it: four ways to help our children move from a sense of entitlement to a sense of gratitude. You know what they say…practice makes perfect. So, when it comes to developing a sense of gratitude: Practice, Practice, Practice!

Stop Apologizing & Bear Fruit

Have you ever apologized and felt like it didn’t help? I have. In fact, I think it does no good to keep on apologizing over and over again, especially when you know what you did was wrong… especially when you know you need to apologize. Perhaps you missed your child’s game because you took a nap and didn’t wake up; or, you forgot to bring home the milk you promised to pick up. Whatever it was, you apologized but things just kept getting worse. You may have found yourself asking, “What do they want from me? I said I was sorry!” Let me offer a suggestion. In order to strengthen your apology and reconcile the relationship, you need to stop apologizing and “bear the fruit of repentance.” You need to show that the apology is more than just words; it’s a heartfelt desire to make a change. How can you assure your family that you are bearing the fruit of change? Let them smell the aroma of your apology and taste the sweetness of the fruit of your repentance. Here’s how:
     ·         Acknowledge what you did was wrong and that it had an impact on the whole family. Recognize that your family members had to compensate for your wrong actions. Recognize the work they did, and continue to do, to make up for your mistake or wrongdoing. Thank your spouse for being available to take your children to their activities when you chose to watch TV. Thank your children for “picking up the slack” left by your wrongdoing. Acknowledge that your actions resulted in the family having to do more work. Admire the work they did and appreciate how well they did it.

·         Change your behavior. I realize this takes effort and you may not reach perfection overnight; but, put in a genuine effort to change. As part of your apology, identify an alternative behavior that you will strive to achieve and describe that behavior to your family. Develop a plan to help you move toward the “new and improved behavior.” Seriously, sit down with your family members and develop steps that will help you engage in the new behavior. Be diligent in working to change your behavior.

·         Reveal your commitment to change by participating in family talks, walks, and activities. Become an integral part of the family. Commit to learning about the interests and needs of other family members. Make it just as important in your life to know your family’s interests and needs as it is to know your own. Participate in your family by generously giving them your time and energy.

·         Giving generously to your family will demand some sacrifice on your part. You might have to sacrifice some of “your personal time.” You might need to sacrifice some of the energy you invest in “your thing” so you have more energy to invest in your family. I’m not saying you have to give up everything you like; but, set some limits around your own interests so you can invest more in your family. Doing this will inform your family that they are more important to you than anything else.
The diligence with which you perform these four tasks will give your family a taste of the true flavor of your apology. The joy with which you perform these tasks will let them know if the fruit of your apology is ripe and ready for enjoyment or rotten and ready for the trash. As you commit to these tasks on a daily basis, you will find that you also enjoy the juicy fruit of repentance. After all, the fruit of a sincere apology will fill the whole family with the sweet taste of intimacy, joy, and pleasure. So, stop apologizing and bear some fruit.

One Ingredient of Happy Children

A research team at the University of British Columbia published a study involving toddlers and generosity. In this study, each toddler received treats (like Goldfish crackers). A few minutes later, one group of toddlers was asked to give one of their treats to a puppet. Another group was given an extra treat to share with the puppet. The study revealed that the toddlers who shared their own treat with the puppet displayed greater happiness than the toddlers who were given a treat to share. In other words, the toddlers who made a personal sacrifice exhibited greater happiness than those who did not. The toddlers found the generosity of personal sacrifice emotionally rewarding. One author of the study said, “Forfeiting their own valuable resources for the benefit of others makes them happier than giving away just any treat.”


Two thoughts came to my mind when I read a summary of this study. One, Jesus said that unless we become like little children, we will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. This study reveals an important lesson we can learn from children–it is better to give than receive. And, giving that includes some level of personal sacrifice elicits happiness. Generosity in the family contributes to joy. Families that practice sacrificial generosity will reap the reward of intimacy. Individual members of the generous family feel more significant because of their opportunity to impact others; more connected because they share something that is personally meaningful; and happier because (as this study suggests) sacrificial giving produces happiness…which brings me to my second thought about this study.


We, as parents, contribute to our children’s happiness when we encourage them to give to others…especially if it means they have to make some personal sacrifice. Sometimes we have trouble watching our children make a personal sacrifice. We hate to see them “lose something” they truly enjoy or lack something they really like having. So, we “protect” them from that feeling by giving them the “thing” to give away. Then, it is no skin off their nose. They do not have to make the sacrifice. We walk away feeling better because we do not have to see our children struggle with personal sacrifice. However, this study suggests that when we take away their opportunity to make a personal sacrifice, we rob them of happiness. We deprive them of the complete happiness that comes from making a generous personal sacrifice for another person. On the other hand, when we force them to give to others, we rob them of the joyous reward they might receive from freely offering a gift…and we plant seeds of resentment. But, when we model personal sacrifice in our giving…when we encourage them to give generously…when we present opportunities for sacrificial giving…we increase the opportunity for our children’s happiness.


What are some ways you can model personal sacrifice in giving? In what areas might you encourage your children to give generously?

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