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Generosity Is A Habit
Episode 1096th July 2023 • How Not to Screw Up Your Kids • Dr Maryhan
00:00:00 00:28:42

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How can we cultivate generosity within our children and an understanding of how privileged they are? I'll share the three common things we do which don't work, and my top five tips for encouraging generosity, so we don't have to nag about how lucky they are!

Here are the highlights: 

{1:00} What is generosity?

{3:30} Three things we shouldn’t do… 

{10:40} Don’t wait for entitlement to show itself

{11:30} Model generosity graciously

{13:47} Privilege in the context of fairness

{16:45} Encourage volunteering

{21:45} Importance of giving

{24:45} Practice gratitude daily

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Hello, and welcome to the how not to screw up your kids podcast. So pour yourself a cuppa, find a comfy seat and enjoy the conversation. This is episode 109. And today's episode generosity is a habit. I'm talking about how we can cultivate generosity within our children, and an understanding of how privileged they are, oh, this is going to be a good one. Because I know so many of you have had the same rants and conversations that I have had with my children. And there's going to be some sort of serious honesty going on. So let's just start by like, what do we mean by generosity, we're talking about this idea that generosity is a habit, then that means that generosity is in lots of ways a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly. And by exercising that muscle, it becomes a habit, but what actually is generosity itself. And I kind of looked at various different definitions, but in essence, it's a liberal willingness. And what we mean by liberal is just it's you do it a lot. But it's this willingness to be really liberal with your time, with money, support, kindness, love, friendship, whatever that might be. That's the kind of that's really what generosity is, it's altruistic in that it is doing it with no sense of what you'll get back. It's simply feeling and knowing it's the right things to do. And, you know, I'm sure you, you'll see that some children seem to do this quite instinctively. But I do believe it is something that we can work on and teach our children. Because I believe this whole notion of if we focus on generosity, if we focus on cultivating that, it's very much related to probably one of the much talked about, and most common complaints that parents have about their children being ungrateful, not realising how privileged and lucky they are to have what they have. And I think in lots of ways, focusing in on generosity, and this isn't about, you know, let's focus on the positive and ignore the negative. But I do think sometimes, you know, it's this notion of are we walk, you know, are we working towards something, as in we've got this forward motion, rather than moving away from something. And I know, it sounds like a subtle, maybe I'm just being particularly pedantic kind of thing. But if we're trying to, I just think it's a better way of framing it rather than moving away from how can we stop our children feeling so privileged and entitled, moving away from that, I just think it's so much easier when you've got a focus of a goal, or a task, or a trait or a skill or a strategy that, that you're going forward towards, rather than moving away from. So that's why I framed it very much from this general series, a habit and my true belief that if we focus on that, if we cultivate generosity as a habit within our children, then what will happen is we will get less of the entitlement type bit, that is a big rub for all of us. It's a huge, huge rub. So how we teach, it's how I'm going to talk about how do we teach our children? How do we encourage generosity, but I do think it's really important to start with what we shouldn't do. And I'm going to be really honest here, I'm going to talk about three things we shouldn't do. And I have been guilty of each and every one of these and really quite spectacularly I think for some of them. So the first one that we should avoid doing if we're trying to cultivate generosity as a habit is lecturing our children, telling them how grateful they should be for every sacrifice we make for them, how we work long hours, we don't spend money on ourselves, so that we can, you know, make sure that they're all right, et cetera, et cetera, whatever that lecture into your children sounds like or your teams, we have all done it, I have done it, I'm still guilty of doing it. And I catch myself as often as I possibly can. But there are many lectures that slipped through the net. And I find myself sort of slightly ranting and going on about it for a really long time. So with these three, I'm not saying that you won't fall into the trap of doing this. Just be aware that this is not going to help cultivate generosity, it's not going to help our children be less entitled. If we do this, if we're adopting these as are the only kind of the way that we approach it. So yeah, we're let's recognise we do it. Parenting is full of errors, mistakes, slip ups, wishing we've not done things the way that we have. That's normal. Part of parenting. But I think if we're aware that approaching it this way is not the best way of doing it, then hopefully what it'll mean is we'll catch ourselves doing it. And so we might do it eight out of 10 times. But if we can avoid it two times out of 10, three times out of 10, maybe move up to four times out of 10, then we'll make a much bigger difference. So the first one is, let's just avoid lecturing our children. The second one is threatening them with some form of wake up to your privilege type experience. So whether that's a you know, I'm going to take you to a homeless shelter, just so you can see how lucky you are that you've got a roof on your head, I'm going to take you to a volunteer centre, I'm going to take you to a country where there's poverty and whatever it might be. I think it's now my view is I'm not against children, volunteering, and our continued education. And we'll talk about it when we actually look at the strategies in terms of how do we teach our children. But I don't believe that we should ever be making these threats as such, you know, they just need to be presented in a non emotional educational context, not a heat of the moment, angry threat. And I have to confess, I have threatened to take my children to take them on a visit to a homeless shelter more than once, so that they could appreciate just how lucky they are. I did say that I am sharing what I've learned from screwing up my own kids, so that you don't do it too. But thankfully, they've been relatively unscarred by it, but it's not a good way to go. So, you know? Absolutely, I think it's, I think there's huge merit in our children being exposed to situations that are not the situations that they typically live in as a way of an education not as a way of feeling sorry for other people. That's, that absolutely is not, generosity doesn't come from pity. That generosity should come from a space of understanding the privilege that they have, and wanting to give something back. So of course, you know, do go to homeless shelters, you know, help out at Christmas, and soup kitchens, and all of these other things, but do it from a context of a conscious discussion and an educational trip rather than threatening it, because that creates fear that creates trauma that creates anxiety, that creates a whole load of guilt and shame, that we shouldn't be projecting on to our children. Because they've made some entitled comment, so we shouldn't lecture them, we shouldn't threaten them with any of these wake up to your privilege type experiences. And the third one, I think this can actually be a bit more insidious, and we don't always realise that we're doing this, but we shouldn't burden our children with the decisions that we have made, which have bestowed privilege on them. So for example, in the holidays, that we take living in a house, that allows our children to have their own bedrooms, you know, our children don't, didn't get to choose the circumstances that they found themselves in that they were born into. And sometimes the decisions that we might make about our children going to a private school, or it may be that we are children being able to do activities that are quite expensive activities, play musical instruments, where we've made a decision to purchase the instrument, rather than rent it out through the school. So I think we, we must not burden our children with the choices that we have made, which we feel are the right choices to make to expand their education, expand their life, expand their experiences, that have a financial, or, or a time cost to us that creates some stress. And then we burden them with that by making comments about, you know, I do one of these sacrifices, I'm working three jobs, or I'm working excessive hours in order to pay for the mortgage or the rent on this house, your children didn't get to choose that. You did. And actually, on that particular point, I remember quite poignantly having a conversation, my son is so wise, I think children are he's not any wiser than any other child, but they are very wise at seeing things. And I think I was having one of those lecturing my children kind of rants about how lucky they are and how I was working X, Y, and Zed and doing


ABC in order for them to have certain things and he looked at me and he just said, I asked you to put me in this particular this particular position, you made that choice, and it's unfair of you to then be saying how privileged I am. Because I didn't get to choose that. And I do think I mean, that stuck with me. Well, it has stuck with me for a very, very long time. He said it when it was under 10. And I remember thinking, Do you know what you're absolutely Right, there are some things that of course, we can have conversations with our children about maybe they've asked for an X Xbox or the latest PlayStation or they're asking for some clothes, then those are different conversations that we can have. But when we're making some, you know, this burdening our children with some of the choices that we have made, because we believe that the right decisions about how we might want to align with our values and how we want to live our lives, we shouldn't be making our children feel guilty. So those are the three that we should not be doing. Okay, so how do we teach it? Well, we don't, I think, let me just make a bit of a context statement. Because I think this is really important. We shouldn't wait for our children to do or say something which shows that they are acting in an entitled or privileged way for us to call it out. We should be teaching our children about how fortunate they are. And also in terms of generosity. From that word from the get go. So we can't do it through lecturing, we shouldn't be threatening them. We shouldn't be burdening them. But we want to talk about, you know, how we should be valuing kindness and acceptance right from the beginning, rather than waiting until our children have done something and then putting them up on it. And this is a really important one, because we want to avoid this lecturing our children, and making these threats and burdening them. So I've got five ways that I want to share with you. And the first one, as you have probably guessed, is we need to model it. And we need to model generosity graciously. Okay. So we have all been generous with our time, and our money, etc, at times. But we have sometimes done it with a slight tinge of irritation, or resentment, which our children will pick up on. So whether that's in terms of modelling, we need to be modelling this or whether that's helping out a neighbour insisting our parents, you know, our partner rest up after a difficult day, being patient behind the slow driver, being polite with people at the supermarket. It's not about these big grand gestures, although, of course, those are helpful too. But what I would say is the big grand gestures, whether that's being generous with your time to volunteer for something in your children's school, or whether that's helping out a particular event, or anything like that is that I would just urge you to think carefully before you agree. Because sometimes we agree to do something generously with our time or our money, or our resources. And then we're quite resentful about it. So that's where we get this incongruence this jarring. Because what happens is, our children see us acting generously, because we talked about how important is to be generous. But our it's being undermined by the fact that the comments that we're making, and the things that we're saying suggests that actually generosity is something that takes away your time and takes away your resources and takes away your money. And it's something you do but grudgingly and that, of course, isn't what we really want to teach our children. We want to teach our children to be generous with their whole soul, their whole spirit. So it's making sure that we model it, but modelling it in a gracious way, rather than in a resentful way. So that's number one. Number two is about getting our children involved.


The second way that we can help teach generosity as a habit with our children is to talk about privilege in the context of fairness. So if we're trying to teach generosity, because we want to make sure that our children understand how privileged and how fortunate that they are. A really good way of doing it without lecturing is to talk to them about how privilege relates to fairness. So we might give an example that to say they've got a sibling. So you might say, well, if I jack, if I give you a biscuit every single day, and then I give your brother John, two biscuits. And I give you one biscuit today, your brother John, two biscuits today, and then maybe tomorrow, I'll give you one biscuit and I give you a brother two biscuits. And then the next day, I'll give you one biscuit and I give two biscuits, how fair is that? Children really understand this concept of fairness. So it's about helping them understand that privilege that the things that they're able to have and to do is almost is very similar to this fairness. Now it doesn't mean that you know, we shouldn't be able to do that, but that there are some of us that are in positions where we are able to have things meanings that are more than others, whether that be time. So that's, you know, the example I've given with the cookies is about a physical possession or food. But that could also be about time. So it's helping them understand that actually privilege is much more related to is this notion of fairness. And how fair is it that some people maybe get to always, you know, they get to have their own bedroom, maybe they get to have a birthday party, maybe they get to have their parents, they have a job, that allows them to be home quite a bit. So they're able to go and be able to go to sports days, or they're able to go and drop off at school or pick up. So it's helping our children understand this notion of fairness. It privilege in the context of fairness. So what they can then do is when they're in situations where they see others, that are not having the don't have as much as themselves, they can then act from a perspective of, oh, I can be generous, because it's that it's not fair that that person doesn't, isn't able to have the things that I have. And so I want to be able to give back, I want to be able to give some of my time to help them, I want to give them some of my friendship, because you know, I'm so if I'm fortunate enough to have lots of friends, and this person, maybe has one friend, or maybe has no friends at Breaktime, this time they're on their own. And that's not really fair to be on your own. It's not really, it's not fun. So I'm going to give up my friendship to that person, because then that feels a kinder, more generous thing to do. So it's again, it's really, it's really helpful for children, because they understand this concept of fairness. So it's really helpful to talk to them about privilege in that context.


The third way we can teach our children about this habit of gratitude of generosity is about sort of getting our children involved in volunteering in some way. And when we're, when we're doing this, I think it's really important that we've had the conversation with our children about it. So we it's part of, I've talked a lot about this notion that our children are a building under construction. And we start with this foundations on which the building is built. And we keep returning to that foundation periodically, because it's really important. And those foundations about a built on our values as parents and within our family and the values that we want to instil in our children. And if we if one of those values is about being generous, being able to give back because we're in a very fortunate position, that we are able to have X, Y, and Zed, whatever that might be in your personal family circumstances, then having conversations about giving back is something that we should be doing regularly. And it goes back to this kind of comment that I made at the beginning, you wouldn't wait until your child had done something that went against the values that your family is trying to instil to start teaching them about it. And yet with generosity and this notion of sort of helping our children understand how privileged they are, often ends up becoming this lecturing, nagging negative thing that we have with our children. Rather than sort of being that forward focusing on that looking ahead, instead of just like, being able to say, you know, we're in a really great and really fortunate position that we get to have x y Zed. And this is not about having huge wealth isn't it's not about that at all. It's you know, it can be that you're very fortunate enough that you, you know that your children have got parents that are both together, you know, that both love each other. And it ran a really committed relationship, it may be that, you know, you're very fortunate enough that you're that your children are being raised, where they've got their extended family living really close by so it's not, you know, I want us to sort of think that the generosity isn't necessarily and our children understanding the privilege that they have isn't, isn't just about financial isn't just about things that we get to have in the places that we live, it's the circumstances in which our children get to live each day. And that they understand that, that the privilege that they have, because of that, and how, you know, it's really important within our family and a part of our family values is that we give back to those who are not able to have their extended family, maybe they don't have an extended family at all, and then living in a more isolated way. And that could be your neighbour, who doesn't have extended family, it could be your neighbour who is more frail and not able to do things for themselves. So it's, you know, might be helping out with other families. So it's really being able to have those conversations with your family regularly. In other words, my Sunday planning meetings, which I've spoken about, you know, Sunday family meetings and planning meetings are where we reconnect as a family, and we talk about our values and what's important and what's happened in our week and the week that's coming up and what's worked and what hasn't worked is it really gives us that kind of regular check in and as a family where we can have these conversations shunts around, this is a really important value in our family. And then talking about how then your children can get involved in volunteering, or you get involved in volunteering as a family. And that can be, you know, doing the shopping for your next door neighbour. Or it can be part of volunteering for, you know, an event that happens that you will get involved in it might be to do with charity, or it might be a volunteering for a specific project. And that project may not even be within this country, but something that is a family that you connect to, and that you want to give back elsewhere. But it's really getting our children involved in seeing that volunteering, that giving back as just a something that we do in recognition of the fortunate position that we're in. And it's an opportunity to give back in and for them to see what difference in the impact that it has on the people that they're volunteering for. And also how it impacts them. So it's not just about a tick box exercise, okay, let's just look at volunteering stuff that our children can do. But it's really having a conversation with them, because it's that it's the education piece isn't it's about having a conversation about why we may choose to volunteer for that, or get involved in that or our children might, what might the people that were volunteering for get out of that, what might we get out of it by volunteering our time and how it makes us feel and reconnect to our values and why that's really important. So I think that that one's a really good one, too. So we've talked about modelling it, modelling generosity and doing it graciously talking about privilege in the context of fairness, getting our children involved in volunteering. The fourth one is really a bit of an extension of that. And it may well be something that you do already already, but just talking about the importance of giving with our children. So it's that education piece, but then there's some action and then encouraging our children to give regularly and with this particular example of giving, that I'm going to talk about is much more about giving possessions. So if we're talking about the importance of giving and the privileged position that we're in, we can encourage our children to have a bit of a regular purge of the toys and the things that they have on their birthday, just before their birthday. And at Christmas, you know, we can instil this notion that, before we accept more, let's reflect on what we already have. And this process of giving, and that could be giving of toys that could be going through their own wardrobes looking at the clothes that they're no longer wearing. But instead of us doing it, which we do, let's face it, we all colour children's toys every now and again and take them to the charity shop, or we work through their clothes, and we do the same. Instead of us doing it, we really should be looking encouraging our children to doing it. And then asking our children, you know which organisation which charity would they like to donate things to. So we can talk about the work that different charities do in our local area, we all will have some form of opportunity about how we might be able to pass on our abundance and our privilege to others. So we can talk to our children about the different organisations that we could donate to and ask our children who they would like to donate their possessions to their toys, their clothes, their things. Because then it's a really, again, it's this part of this education piece, because we can talk about, and it may well be that they want to donate specifically to organisations that relate to children, but they might not they could equally choose to donate to something that is much more of an adult theme. for various different reasons. There may be a family connection, as in that particular challenge has impacted your family. But it could be something else. So I think it's this is really important because it we know that around our children's birthdays and Christmas, there will be other opportunities maybe within your culture and within your country where presents are different or gifts or happen. Maybe you could also look seasonally in terms of our children's wardrobes, but there will be at least two if not probably four or five opportunities within a calendar year for our children to reflect on what they have. And then to then go through that. And then donate to others. You have less of a you have less of a privilege there. So it's really talking about the importance of giving, particularly in the context of our physical things. And then the fifth and the final one is this. Practice gratitude. Daily. Gratitude is not something that we should be lecturing our children to in the same way we shouldn't be lecturing to them about their privilege, but it's helping our children see those small man moments in the day, that may seem insignificant, but they have the biggest impact. And they're not it may be some thing or someone that in that, in that moment to moment of the day has had a real profound impact has filled them with joy has made them happy. And that is helping them reconnect to that gratitude, because what that gratitude does on a regular basis is it helps them see the impact that others have on them, and outside situations and things that have on that have on their happiness and their joy. So that they can then see and get the connection between the gratitude that they experienced because someone smiled at them or teacher made a good comment about the work that they did, or a friend included them in a game a break time. So by them scouring their day, and actively looking for moments within their day where there is gratitude for a person or a thing or an event which happened,


they're then able to see the connection between the gratitude that they feel, the joy that they feel, and how that makes them feel, they can make the connection to the actions that they have when they are generous with their time, with their money, with their friendships with their possessions, and then the joy and the gratitude that that then bestows on the other people. So I think that's a really important thing. And remember that the practice of gratitude for the effects to really be felt not only in terms of that understanding of the generosity, but also in terms of how it positively impacts mental health, it needs to be written down. Now young children who are not writing can of course, they can draw, and it doesn't have to look anything like what it is that they're talking about, that they're grateful for. But it's just this making this connection between the language thought bit that comes out of their mouths, and the writing connection, which that they have with that kind of that aspect of their brain that solidifies the memory and connects them to that deep emotion that is felt with it. So the five, let's just go back through them just so you've got them. So the first was to model it, making sure that we do it graciously. The second is about talking about privilege and generosity within the context of fairness. The third is about getting our children involved in volunteering on some level. The fourth is about talking about the importance of giving and encouraging our children to do this regularly. And the fifth was a practice of gratitude. So my gift this week is going to be these top five strategies and a checklist with space to reflect underneath. The idea is served as a bit of a reminder, but also you can use it practically as a tool. So as usual, you just head over to my free resource library, forward slash library, where you'll find the link to download the resource. All you need to do is pop in your email address and you'll get instant access not only to this week's resource, but all the other free resources across all my podcast episodes, as ever, I would be so so so so eternally grateful. If you have loved this episode, I would be so grateful if you could follow rate and review the podcast so that others can find us and we can spread the love. So until next time





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