Friday, December 16, 2011

Giving- What Are We Teaching Our Children?

Christmas and Holidays are a time for families and friends to come together.  It is a time of practicing generosity and kindness.  A time to remember those less fortunate and take time to give back to the world. I'm so grateful for this time and hope that it extends in peoples' lives to give and be generous throughout the year, not only during Holiday celebrations.

It does make me think when I cross a situation of how parents, schools and business organizations are encouraging children to give.  Our Health Curriculum includes a volunteer component and often when I ask others what their children do to volunteer or give back, they respond with surprise, "Oh, nothing...yet."  I wonder why we think it is up to everyone else to volunteer their time, money and energy to give back to the world to make it a better place.  I wonder why people leave it up to "someone else" to get it done; and assume that "someone" is or will do "it".  By example, what are we teaching our children?  Our children will grow up copying not only what we say, but even more likely, what we do.

Then I hear of students who are encouraged to volunteer or donate to a food bank for "extra marks" or "bonus points".  I believe this teaches children to give back when there is something in exchange for themselves.  A student will need to give a certain number of food banks in order to earn the points.  Hmmm, this makes me wonder about the definition or meaning of "giving: to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation, to bestow" (

If we offer rewards to our children for the gift of giving, then what are we really teaching them?  If we, as adults, don't give back to the world to make it a better place by example, then can we expect our children to do any different? Christmas is a time to be generous, not only to people we know and love, but to others that we do not even know. It is also something we all need to be doing all year round to make our world a better place. Jewish Rabbi Hillel is famous for his quote: “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”

By writing this post, I'm not trying to place blame on anyone.  I'm just reflecting on the examples and reasons we give to our children to give back to the world.  To think about what we are doing to make our world a better place.  What examples are we giving our children? Are we teaching them to give without expecting anything in return? Or, are we promoting an iGeneration; one where there has to be something in it for the individual before they will participate in the gift of giving?

One of my favorite books to show children about the gift of giving (to give without expecting something in return) is Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. Maybe it's a good time to read it again!  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

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