This article first appeared in the July 2010 issue of Smart Parenting magazine
Robert Kiyosaki, finance guru and author of the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad and Retire Young, Retire Rich, has been quoted to say: “The easiest way to become rich is by being generous… to become rich by serving more people.” Now, this is a new way of looking at generosity: It is something borne out of service and goodwill to other human beings and not the charity of giving only from one’s excesses. What’s more, he links true generosity with true wealth.
Kiyosaki likens generosity to a seed planted by someone that will bear fruit in the form of abundance later on. Many parents today put a lot of emphasis on responsible saving, but what they fail to consider is responsible generosity as well. This is something that will benefit the entire family, particularly their kids who learn from them.
The value of generosity “I see the value of teaching my kids about generosity because I want to help them be aware of the world out there that’s bigger than them,” says Rochelle Bonifacio-Prado, freelance writer and mom of three. “Teaching my kids this concept is a must.”
Mayang Sison-Pascual, a financial consultant, family counselor, and mother of five agrees, “Generosity is the essence of Christianity. If we truly live by our faith and values, then we model it to our kids as regular acts of generosity —- for actions speak louder than words.”
“Our society has become so materialistic,” An-Marie Villarin, preschool director and mother of one, explains. “A lot of children, and even adults, need instant gratification. We’re so used to getting everything we want when we want them and we throw tantrums when we don’t get them. Giving back to the less fortunate teaches children empathy, respect for others, and how to moderate their needs and wants.”
Letting go, making room, and building up others Sison-Pascual explains that the concept of generosity can be linked to the Greek term kenosis or “emptying out.” Cleaning and clearing out holds a lot of significance in both the physical and spiritual sense. “When you are generous and don’t cling to material possessions, you allow for grace and good things to come into your life. Letting go of clutter allows us to clear the field so we can plant new seeds and grow a fresh batch of crops.”
Nicky Templo-Perez, a college professor and mother of two, says that she needs to be very simple and clear when explaining this to her kids. “My eldest is only five years old so I have to relate this concept to suit her age. I tell her that she has to make space for new things in her life, like during birthdays or Christmas. This means that she has to let go of old toys or clothes she no longer uses and she has to share them with others.”
“I would explain it as needs versus wants,” says Bonifacio-Prado. “I tell my kids that there are things we really spend for, such as food and school supplies. But if it’s a want like toys or more clothes, then we need to make room for something new. That way, they learn to appreciate what they already have.”
Bo Sanchez, father of two, preacher, and author of 8 Secrets of the Truly Wealthy, insists that material wealth and spiritual wealth go side by side. He explains in his book that most Filipinos are afraid of becoming wealthy because they don’t want to go against their Christian values and be seen as greedy. On the contrary, he says that when someone really wants to build others up and contribute to his community, it makes sense that he is also abundant in terms of material wealth. How can one give if one has nothing to share? Generosity is the clean slate under which wealth and abundance can grow.
Teaching generosity Below are some ways you can teach the value of generosity to your kids:
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1. Read books about giving and sharing. Villarin says this is especially helpful for younger children who will not fully understand the concept of giving or donating. Talk about the characters or do role-play. Discuss words such as share, give, take turns, “please” and “thank you.” Practice saying them with your kids.
2. Lead by example. According to Bonifacio-Prado, “You can’t tell them to share what they have if they don’t see you doing the same thing.” So be the first to share and show your kids a good example. Don’t wait for special occasions such as birthdays or Christmas to share with others. Bonifacio-Prado regularly volunteers for Habitat for Humanity; she brings some of her kids along where they can work alongside the home partners. They contribute through simple acts like molding bricks.
3. Help your child sort through his things and ask who he wants to give them to. Sison-Pascual suggests that parents regularly check in on their kids’ closets and help them sort through their things. More importantly, it would be good to ask your child whom he wants to give his old toys and clothes to. You can tell him about charitable institutions and visit the place together so he can personally donate his things.
4. Explain why you are giving away his items. Templo-Perez says that when Typhoon Ondoy struck, she asked her daughter Iya to donate some of her clothes and toys, while explaining what had happened to the homes of the other kids. “Somehow, she felt more connected with those kids, and it made it easier for her to give.”
5. Teach your kids how to take turns. Villarin suggests showing them how it’s done, especially for young kids. You can physically guide them to stand in queue for playground equipment, for example, or set a timer to designate how long a child can play with a toy before giving it to someone else. “Learning how to give way,” she says, “is the first step in learning how to truly give.”
Growing up generous “Being charitable goes beyond just donating or sharing what you have with the less fortunate,” says Bonifacio-Prado. “It is being considerate. It is kindness. For me and my husband, there isn’t an age too early to teach our children to be kind. I want it to be second nature to them; I want them to take it with them to adulthood.” For Sison-Pascual, whose kids are mostly grown up already, she sees the rewards of bringing up generous kids in the way they are self-starters when it comes to compassion and giving. “My kids give their own money during church collection. They do it out of their own accord. They have realized that what’s more important is the access to things rather than its possession.”
“Hopefully, when my kids grow up, they can give in bigger ways,” says Templo-Perez. “In doing so, I see them ensuring that every Filipino has quality of life.” For Villarin, the day her child gives on his own -— without being told and without a heavy heart —- is the day she sees her parenting paying off.
“I believe that people who give from the heart are well-loved by others,” she says. Now, who wouldn’t want that for their kids? Teaching them generosity early on prepares them for both material and spiritual wealth later on in life.