Are Your Children Generous?
“GIVE me that! That’s mine!” Are those words familiar? Do they voice the sentiments of your children when asked to share things with others? This might well be the case, if the young child shows signs of being selfish and possessive with his belongings.
Parental concern is natural when children develop and display these undesirable tendencies. But what can parents do to arrest such traits? How is it possible to teach children to become liberal, openhanded and generous?
Generosity Must Be Taught
A newborn baby’s wants and needs are of prime importance to him. He does not even realize how many sleepless nights his parents experience in an effort to keep him well fed, dry and supplied with the attention he craves. Of course, in time the child becomes more aware of others. But he has to be taught generosity, as well as other admirable qualities.
The age when such instruction can be absorbed varies with each child. By the time children are of school age, some are companionable and ready for friendships and all that these entail. Other children of the same age, however, may not have adjusted in this way. They hold on to the traits of babyhood. The task of teaching these children is more difficult, especially if the youngster is an only child.
Of necessity, many children in large families learn that their individual needs and wants are not of utmost importance. At an early age they learn to share food, clothing and other material things, if not their thoughts, with their brothers, sisters and other members of the family. And usually these children grow up to become well-adjusted, balanced and mature human beings.
What about your children? Are they generous or selfish, openhanded or possessive, gracious or tightfisted? Well, when did you last look at them objectively? “How,” you ask, “can this be done while they are still young and pliable?” A simple way is to observe them at play with other children. Often a child with selfish tendencies will be very possessive with his toys, refusing to allow other children even to touch them. Yet, he will want to play with theirs, even becoming angry if not given his way. In contrast, the generous child usually will be quite willing to share his things with others. Some are even eager to do so. They notice the needs of less fortunate children and are willing to share without any prompting from the parents.
Interestingly, it is often noted that this type of child generally comes from a home where the parents set a good example of giving. He also receives much love in the home. Thus, the security he feels is not dependent on material things that he can hold on to. He is secure in the love of his parents and knows that he is safe inside a loving family arrangement. Is that true of your children?
What Parents Can Do
One of the important factors in helping children to become generous and outgoing is the continuous encouragement given by their parents. Consider, please, a mother with four children who has been successful in this respect. She sits down and talks with her children as soon as they can comprehend. The mother lovingly helps each one to appreciate that the family arrangement of brothers and sisters is a precious gift from God and that they have to take care of one another as they grow up. The older ones then help the younger ones as they come along. She points out the unloving and violent attitude of children around them and shows her own young ones how they can be different. When her children deviate from a proper course, she patiently reminds them. This young mother also lets them work out their problems with one another whenever that is possible. She has said: “I don’t believe that sibling jealousy is natural. I don’t see any reason for brothers and sisters to be forever fighting and bickering with one another. I have tried to root out such actions in our family by giving each child all the love and attention he or she requires. It is not easy, but it has brought some results.” This approach certainly works, for it is noted that the fighting that exists between some brothers and sisters generally is absent in this particular household.
Another couple with a large family, including a retarded child, also has been successful in rearing children in a loving and generous atmosphere. Contrary to what may occur in similar households, the retarded child is encouraged and expected to be generous with his older and younger brothers and sisters. Yet, he is not the center of attention. Nor is he neglected or made to feel inferior by the others. This boy’s loving nature, and particularly his concern for children he has not even met, warms the hearts of individuals meeting him. His mother said that she and her husband expect their children to be loving with one another. Instead of indicating surprise when children display such love, and giving them rewards or even bribes, these parents show surprise and quiet dismay when their youngsters do not treat each other in a loving manner. This attitude ‘rubs off’ on the children without any long sermons or tongue-lashings.
Do you deal with your children in this way? Or do you assume that any selfishness you notice in them is just a phase they are going through and that they will outgrow? Too many parents have felt that way, only to find that by the time they see the need of doing something about their child’s selfishness, it has become too deep rooted to change.
When parents first notice such a bad tendency, they can work toward uprooting it promptly. Mothers, particularly, need to make such efforts, since they usually are with the child more than the father. But they must be in harmony with their husbands if their children are to feel secure. Nothing can make a child more anxious, and more possessive, than feeling insecure about his parents’ love for each other. If the youngster senses their disunity, he is likely to rely more and more upon material objects—things that he feels safe with and to which he can cling. Also, the child becomes quite withdrawn in personality and dealings with others.
Sometimes parents feel discouraged. because, no matter what they do, there are no good results. Or, so it seems. Nonetheless, things done by parents make impressions on the child. For instance, reminiscing about his childhood, one man recalled with amusement an incident that occurred when he was about eight years old. He said: “I remember saving my pennies and buying several of my favorite candy bars. I had intentions of going off alone and sitting under a tree and just eating all that candy myself. Well, as soon as I had purchased the candy, who did I run into but my mother. Of course, she instructed me to offer some to my brothers and sisters. I remember how horrified I was at such a thought because my brothers and sisters outnumbered the candy bars I had. After a few anxious moments when they acted as if they would devour all my candy, they gave most of it back to me and off I went. But after that I remember thinking more about them when I bought something.”
He also remembered a dispute he had with a younger brother over some pie and just who was going to get the larger piece. His father settled the matter by establishing a rule. From then on, one would do the cutting and the other would have the first choice. The result? They each developed skill in cutting equal pieces. In time, however, they became less exact with one another and a more generous spirit prevailed.
The Only Child
Since an only child has no brothers and sisters with whom to associate and share things, he often becomes quite greedy and self-centered. If unchecked, this selfish tendency will display itself in adult life. Such children can become persons who always want the best seat, the first choice of food, and so forth.
What can be done to help an only child? A concerned mother took what some viewed as a drastic approach to her six-year-old son’s increasing selfishness. Talking to him brought no results. So she embarked on a different plan. She, along with her mother (the three lived together), decided to make him aware of how much he depended on them for his food, shelter, clothing and the like. Every time he used something that was theirs, she and his grandmother would remind him that it was not his. Soon he came to appreciate that what was “his” really was a gift from them. It was their property, and he was merely being granted permission to use it. In a short time, the youngster seemed to get the point. Without their prompting, he began to share with them more and more of what was “his.” This spilled over into his growing circle of friends. Observing her son at play, this mother noted his new, if initially reluctant, attitude toward the sharing of things with his playmates. In a short time, generosity became more and more a part of his personality, especially when he saw how this pleased his mother, grandmother and others. And are not all children hungry for affection and acceptance? Surely they are, and an only child is no exception.
Proper Attitude Important
It goes without saying that no parent wants to raise a selfish child. But, strange as it may seem, parents sometimes contribute to the selfishness of their children. Parental attitudes can foster greed in sons and daughters. Some parents feel that they want their children to have all the things that they themselves missed while growing up. If they had to work hard as youngsters, they want their children to have an easy life. Have you heard such expressions? Well, on the surface this type of thinking may seem harmless enough. But a deeper probe reveals some serious flaws in such reasoning. Parents having this attitude fail to realize that, generally, the hard work, the sacrifices and the deprivations that they experienced early in life were factors that helped to make them self-reliant and mature. Denying their children at least some of these experiences can hinder them in developing similar good qualities.
There is little doubt that when parents give their children everything that they want when they want it, those youngsters will grow up believing that everyone else will treat them the same way. If children are given all the spending money that they want, they may never feel that it is necessary to earn anything on their own. Nor will they be prone to give to others. If parents do everything for their children, seldom will their offspring take the initiative. Rather, they will expect others to shoulder responsibilities for them. So much depends on how the parents train and discipline their children while the children are young. Don’t you agree?
Parents who equate material things with happiness teach their children to woo the very opposite—unhappiness and frustration. What a sad legacy to pass on to one’s children!
On the other hand, loving parents want their children to grow up to become self-sufficient, reliable, loving and gracious men and women. And their role as parents is vital in achieving that goal. Usually, children do one of two things: what they are taught to do, or what they are allowed to do. They do not become selfish and spoiled by receiving love, affection and thoughtful discipline. Usually, it is when children receive too little or none of these things that they become self-centered and egotistical.
When grown, children generally are the product of the training, discipline and love (or the lack of it) that they received from their parents. If they turn out well, the parents can ‘take the bows,’ as it were. Otherwise, they must painfully accept much of the blame. If the effort is put forth while the children are young, good results usually follow. As the Bible says: “Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.” (Prov. 22:6) Of course, that principle applies to girls too.
Surely, concerned parents want their offspring to turn out well. So, make the needed effort as a parent and very likely your children will become generous. They will come to appreciate that “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
[Picture on page 19]
‘Father taught us to share equally’