Monday, October 29, 2012

Teaching our Children to Give

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My 18 month old little boy has a lot of toys. He really does. He is our firstborn AND he is the first grandchild (and great-grandchild!) on both my side and my husband's side so, suffice it to say, he has many goodies to play with.

I made a decision before Nathan was born that I would teach him, and our future children, not to hoard up toys and clothes, but have a heart to give and bless others. I decided that each year before Christmas and every birthday, I would go through their things with them and we would choose items to give and donate away to other children. This has a two-fold purpose. Not only does it free up space in our home and keep our house from becoming overly cluttered and hoard-ish, but more importantly it instills in them a habit and a love for giving. A statistic from 2011 reads that 42 million people in the US live in poverty; 16.1 million of them are children. Did you know that at least 80% of humanity live on $10 a day? According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. I don't know about you, but that breaks my heart. And when I look around at the mass of "stuff" that is easily accumulated in our home, I am even more disturbed. I want my children to see that they do not "need" 20 coats, 50 pairs of shoes, and 100 toys. A simple baby doll is extravagant to one little girl out there. A warm coat means the world to a shivering little boy somewhere. It is my goal to direct my children's attention to the needs around them, and then have a desire to try and meet those needs. And like most things, a giving heart needs to be taught at a young age.

The other day I sat down with Nathan in his room and we began going through his toys. I chose toys that he does not play with and that have no sentimental value, and explained that we were going to share those things with a little boy who has nothing to play with. I said, "We have friends who don't have lots of toys! Let's give them a few of ours!" He, of course, doesn't fully understand, but one day he will.... And I hope when that time comes, that he will have learned to have a cheerful, giver's heart. It's also important to remember that we cannot expect to teach our children to give when we, adults, hoard up our stuff. I can't be hypocritical. I, too, go through my clothes and things and pack a box to donate or give away. As a parent, I have to set the example.

What are ways that you have found to help instill a giving heart to young ones?

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