The Importance of Building Character

Part IV – Generosity: The cure for the “gimmes”

There’s a super villain that shows up this time of year. I call him the Green-Eyed Monster of Greed. He attacks children’s hearts with the “gimmes” and delights at turning this “most wonderful time of the year” into a “very whiny filled time of dread.”

What is it about Christmas that brings the worst out in our kids? Most of them have everything they could possibly need and most of what they can figure out that they want. But the retailers work overtime to convince our children that whatever they have isn’t enough. They are certain that they have to have the latest and the greatest if they are to be happy. Actually, we shouldn’t be so surprised by this phenomenon because it goes way back to the Garden of Eden.

In this case, the green-eyed monster was a snake who convinced Eve that 99.9999% of the trees in the garden weren’t enough. She had a right to that last tree. She wanted it. She needed it. She couldn’t be happy without it. Boy, have we been paying for that case of the “gimmes” ever since!

As in the world of comic books and dramas, we, too, need a superhero to rescue our children from the clutches of the Green-Eyed Monster of Greed. We need a champion of the human heart who can convince our children that there’s something better than the “gimmes.” It’s times like this that our children need “Generosity” to be their defender and save them from a life of discontent and whining. (Okay, I may have just crossed the line on analogies. Sorry.)

As we continue this series on The Importance of Building Character, I would like to focus on building the character trait of generosity in the hearts of our children. In our Raising Truly Great Kids Conference, we define generosity as a great delight in sharing with others what God has entrusted to you. Talk about an antidote to the “gimmes”! However, as with all character building, our words will only carry so much clout. It’s our actions and our children’s own experiences that will replace their natural human tendencies with the counteracting traits of character.

The Bible says this about generosity:

“… give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

And just like every character trait we have already talked about in this series, The Importance of Building Character from a Mom Who has Been There, it’s not a one-time “got it” deal and then move on. No, character building is an ongoing job that parents have been given, one that at times seems like the “one step forward, two steps back” kind of assignment.

In building our own four children from the inside out with character, we discovered:

Four Things Parents can do to Transfer Generosity into their Children’s Hearts:

1. Be a living, breathing example of generosity in front of your children. You’re the high watermark when it comes to them living a life of character.

2. Make a generous heart the expectation in your home rather than the exception. Anything short of a generous spirit should get pushed back every time.

3. Provide opportunities for your children to exercise generosity. This may take some creativity and work on your part, but character building pays off many times in the future.

4. Encourage the quality of generosity in your child’s life by valuing and praising their efforts. Commend them for their good choices and kind responses to others.

This time of year is custom-made to teach and practice the character trait of generosity in your home. Everyone is in the giving spirit, and your children will be faced with many opportunities to exercise the gift of generosity. Here are a few suggestions that have worked for our family to replace the “gimmes” with generosity:

8 Ways to Teach your Children Generosity at Christmas Time:

1. As you plan your Christmas shopping, set a budget for each child.

2. In order to make room for the new gifts, have them choose an equal amount of items that are in good condition to give to a charity.

3. Make sure that you model an attitude of cheerful giving rather than lament the work and money involved to bless others.

4. In order to let them experience the joy and responsibility of gift-giving, have them do chores to earn enough money for a small but thoughtful gift for each member of their family.

5. Spend time each evening talking about the way God has blessed you, and culminate the season with several nights of emphasis on God’s greatest gift, Jesus.

6. Use this time of year to teach and model to your children the joy of giving to others through opportunities to serve in your church and your community.

7. Keep the spirit of Christmas going by using these service opportunities as a springboard for what your family might do the rest of the year to help others.

8. When it comes to having a Christ-filled Christmas, lead with your grateful, generous, humble, and others-oriented attitude.

As parents and grandparents, the habit of generosity is a gift we can give our children and grandchildren that will serve them well for the rest of their lives. God the Father set the example for His own children when He gave us the greatest gift of all — the gift of His only Son.

Use this time of year to show your children that generosity not only reflects God’s heart, but it actually makes their own hearts feel the joy of the season.

Part 1 – The Importance of Building Character

Part 2 – Tips for Building Kids with Integrity

Part 3 – Gratitude – The Seed of Contentment

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