Giving Tuesday and teaching generosity


For the third year in a row, non-profits, charities and community service organizations have encouraged families and individuals to participate in Giving Tuesday — the day after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This is a great opportunity to encourage generosity in our kids!

What Success Looks Like

I have several nephews and a niece in elementary school right now. It is such a privilege to watch them grow up and to see the world through their eyes. Nothing beats watching a child “get it,” whether that’s learning to read or learning to share. Not too long ago, my brother-in-law told me a story about my nephew, who was then around 5 or 6. Their family has worked hard to raise their children to be aware of the needs of others and to act generously. Still, as I am sure all parents know, children seem to have an inherent self-centeredness. So it still brings me to tears when I think about my young nephew spontaneously coming to the conclusion and telling his dad, “I have a lot of toys. Those other kids don’t. Can we box up some of these toys and give them to the other kids?”

Webinar of Ideas

I hope there are many more parents out there working to instill the value of generosity in their children. If you want some ideas, I learned about this webinar coming up on November 24. Consider participating and getting some ideas for your own family to encourage giving this holiday season. I know I plan to participate and I look forward to helping my own kids learn to share!

Parenting in a Material World

Cover for the book Material World
Material World is the work of several photographers to capture the contrasts between families around the globe.

After the last blog, I started thinking about how parenting in America today means parenting amidst an onslaught of materialism. Not only do we fight our own temptations (I have to own a house that looks just so), we have the task of teaching children to become aware of something that they have been swimming in since birth. How do you teach a fish to be aware of water?

I certainly don’t have all the answers. In fact, as a parent myself, I’m often hoping that the things I try will work at least a little bit. But I read, I research, I look for what works for others and I think about what has worked for me. Here are a few of my ways to try to combat the materialism around us:

  • Manage the amount of advertising coming into the house. One option is to reduce junk mail, catalogues, credit card offers, and other ads being mailed to you. The Federal Trade Commission highlights three websites that can help you do just that.
  • Encourage generosity. Make it a point to model generosity, whether that’s donating a bit to the Salvation Army bell-ringers at Christmas, or working with your children to pick a charity and sending them a donation.
  • Educate your family about social causes. Pick one or two books or other resources to use as a family. Some of my favorites are Everyday Justice and Material World: A Global Family Portrait.
  • Reduce overall media consumption. While I love being entertained as much as the next family, it is undeniable that almost all forms of media come with strings attached. Try an experiment with your family to replace some of your entertainment time with a creative or recreational hobby – a sport, craft, board or card game.
  • Teach financial literacy. There are a host of resources online that can be used to educate kids about better ways to use their money. Investopedia has a series for kids, tweens and teens. Here is a link to a nice lesson for kids on the difference between needs and wants. And for adults, I strongly recommend this book that has a little something for everyone. Understanding how to use money as a tool may help a family avoid being driven by the need for more and more stuff.

What works for you? Especially as we approach the holidays, how do you parent in a material world?

Lying, Cheating and Stealing…it’s What Teens Do

A recent study showing an uptick in honesty among American teens prompted the founder of the organization conducting the study, Michael Josephson, to say “I think we have turned the corner.”

From 2010 to 2012, the changes include:

  • Stealing, down to 20% from 27%
  • Lying to a teacher, down to 55% from 61%
  • Cheating on an exam, down to 51% from 59%
  • Lying to parents about something significant, down to 76% from 80%

The percent of teens still, shall we say, “deficient” in character, is troubling.  It makes you wonder what you don’t know, doesn’t it?  Indeed, Josephson commented, “It’s a small ray of sunshine shining through lots of dark clouds.”

Mom and Dad…let’s not grow weary in educating our children to be young men and women of integrity.  We’ve clearly got a lot of work to do!  We CAN have hope that we can make a difference–Josephson attributed some of this significant uptick in teen integrity to parents who are increasingly concerned with teaching their children that honesty is important.   

I Am the Center of My Universe

I just read about an English teacher at a prestigious public high school in Philadelphia who was suspended from her job for posting this on her blog:  “My students are out of control. They are rude, disengaged, lazy whiners. They curse, discuss drugs, talk back, argue for grades, complain about everything, fancy themselves entitled to whatever they desire, and are just generally annoying. Kids, they are disobedient, disrespectful oafs. ”  Since I love teens, I found it disturbing that anyone would be teaching who felt this way.  But, truth be told, when parents talk to one another, they sometimes guiltily express the same kind of frustration.

This isn’t new.  I can still remember my shock when my normally patient  mother whipped a couple of quarters in my direction for lunch money after I complained that she had made my sandwich with rye instead of white bread.  I am certain that this event followed a long string of self-centered, narcissistic behaviors on my part.  I’ve tried to remember this when faced with sometimes obstreperous* teens

But have teens risen to a new level of self-centeredness?  Some experts think so.  In the January 2010 issue of the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science, researchers concluded that there has been a pronounced rise in narcissism among young people.  One group of college students, over a 15 year period, went from 18% to 34% evidencing narcissistic personality traits.  So, why is this happening?  According to an article discussing this research, “Theories implicate parents, teachers and the media, which either allow or celebrate overly permissive attitudes toward individualism, and lead to an inflated and unwarranted sense of self-importance.”

Parents, we can be part of correcting this tendency, or at least we can purpose not to feed into it.  When our kids do wrong, love them, but let them experience the consequences.  No special pleading with teachers when Nathan gets a D due to laziness or poor planning.  When Lupe misses the bus for the third time, let her pay to take a cab,  My wise mother let my sister learn her lesson by doing this very thing.  It won’t be long before our teens enter the real world…the one where they do not occupy the center of the universe.  Our job is to prepare them.

*I love using new words.  This one means “resisting control or restraint in a difficult manner; unruly.”