Q. I have four children ranging from 7 to 14. I have struggled with teaching generosity to each. Do you have any advice for developing a gift-giving guideline?
A. Developing a generous spirit in children is a process that can’t exactly be taught, but experienced. So much of becoming generous, appreciative, and respectful is how it is modeled and what is important to you. Are you generous (that doesn’t mean buying presents), grateful, appreciative, and respectful of your children and of others? If not, this is where to start. We think we can just tell our children to be grateful and to think more of others. We even try to demand it with yelling and disrespectful threats. It doesn’t work that way.
Children naturally love to give things to others and watch faces light up. It is quite empowering when children take an active role in giving. But don’t mistakenly expect that young children will naturally want to be generous with and considerate of others. That expectation will lead to anger and reprimands when you see natural egocentricity, and it seems that all they care about is what they get. That is generally how it is and when they are reprimanded for being egocentric, they tend to grab what they can get more than normal.