Generosity starts in the home

Written by Angie Gibbons
Published on January 19, 2021

On the days when it seemed my young children were trying to win a world record for the ferocity of their arguments or the pitch of their whining, I often felt discouraged about how well I was training them. One of my primary goals was to help them become caring individuals who look out for the welfare of others. 

Why was it so hard for them to care about their own siblings?

Generosity can be difficult to impart because it’s intangible and doesn’t come easily to children. 

Our minds are full of all of the practical things they need to learn, like tying their shoes, so character issues can fall by the wayside. 

But, if we lay the proper foundation and apply much grace, generosity can grow in step with our children’s maturity levels.

My children are now in their preteen and teen years. In between the teaching moments, I see promising glimpses of who they are becoming. 

I see all of the hard work starting to pay off. 

While we cannot change our children’s hearts or expect immediate results, there are practical steps we can take to point them toward the kind of generosity Jesus modeled for us.

Talk about compassion

Generosity grows out of a compassionate heart, and not everyone comes by compassion naturally. 

In fact, selfishness is one of the hallmarks of early childhood. It’s normal. 

But we can help children become outwardly directed by verbally expressing our own compassion when the opportunity arises.

Starting when they are young, show them what it looks like to express sorrow when a friend is hurt. 

Don’t shy away from talking about homelessness and poverty or praying aloud for those who are sick or less fortunate. 

Allow them to hear the concerns of your heart. 

For teens, this might include reading news headlines together and discussing their meaning from a Christian perspective.

Children only know the world they live in, but we can mold their hearts according to God’s ways as we talk about the larger world and how he would have us care for others. 

It doesn’t have to be complicated. Talk to them in the car, around the dinner table, or on walks, and fill their curious minds with his truth (Deuteronomy 6:7).

Teach generosity in the home

Children are naturally justice-oriented. 

They want things to be fair, as you’ve probably noticed. 

One way we can encourage generosity is to provide opportunities for them to go out of their way to serve others in their own home. 

Philippians 2:4 says to look “to the interests of others” (ESV). 

Children need to have responsibilities. 

If I allow my children to just enjoy the fruits of my and my husband’s labors without contributing, they are more likely to become entitled and lazy instead of helpful.

I also challenge my children to be helpful outside of their regular responsibilities. 

Sometimes, when one child is finished with their chores, I might ask them to help another child who is lagging behind, knowing it will stretch their sense of fairness a little. 

I use the phrase “be generous” often when I hear unkind words or slights. 

I am training them that Jesus’ way isn’t just fair—it goes above and beyond what is expected and seeks the good of others.

Lead by example

More so than what we say, children emulate our behavior toward others. 

As we show compassion, forgiveness, and mercy toward others, especially those who are unkind or different from us, we can model unconditional love for our children. 

They may remember the time that we took a meal to a dear friend, but they will most certainly remember the time a driver screamed at us from the next lane and we chose not to react negatively.

We are all imperfect and will not make all of the right choices in front of our children. 

When that happens, we can remedy the situation by pointing out our error and asking God’s forgiveness in front of our children. 

We can tell them that our desire is to be kinder and that we made a mistake. 

That might make a more lasting impression on the hearts and minds of our children, and it teaches them that the Christian walk is an ongoing process for all of us that requires humility.

Provide real-world opportunities

When we are standing in line at the store and my children repeatedly ask for a treat or toy, I know it’s time for us to spend more time out in the real world. 

It is normal for them to ask for things and not to fully appreciate what they’ve been given. 

But I can help them grow in gratitude by not giving in to constant requests or by having them earn the extra things they want.

And, as much as I value conversation about these topics with my children, nothing teaches better than generosity in practice, especially if there is some hard work involved. 

For young children, a real-world opportunity might look like making sandwiches for a homeless shelter and going with you to drop them off. 

Older children might hold a bake sale to raise money for a particular cause. Teens might help out at a soup kitchen or give sacrificially of their own allowance. 

Find creative ways to help them engage with the world at large and to put eyes on the situations that grieve the heart of God.

Wait for the heart to change with time

In the end, only God can do the work of softening our children’s hearts, and we must trust his timing and his ways. 

Pray and be patient with them as they grow. 

Sometimes compassion and generosity emerge out of our children’s own hardships. 

Sometimes it takes longer than we had hoped. 

But, if we lay a proper foundation, their hearts will be ripe for maturing in the areas of compassion and generosity. 

They will not forget the conversations we had and the services they performed when they are older. Their lens on the world will be forever shaped by those experiences. 

And God will be faithful to finish the good work he started in them (Philippians 1:6).

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Angie Gibbons

Angie Gibbons is a writer, teacher, and occasional surfer living in Hawaii with her husband and three kids. Her passion is to see women grow in peace and bravery. Get her practical guide to getting rid of overwhelm at www.angiegibbons.com.

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