Teaching My Children Generosity

Alexandra Kuykendall essentials

“You have to share!” “Take turns!” “Give it to her already!” “I’m sorry, but you just can’t have it your way. All. Of. The. Time!”

My attempts to guide my children toward kind, generous behavior go from patient to livid in about as long as it takes a toddler to find an escape route in a parking lot. In a word, fast.

Despite my efforts to demand bigheartedness, these little people with minds and wills of their own, manage to quickly prove how hypocritical I can be. As I’m standing in the middle of the kitchen yelling, “Can’t everyone just be nice around here?!” I can see the smirks on my children’s faces. They have managed to push all of my buttons. In a way they are stage managing performance art. They like to call it, “Our mother as irony.”

And so with generosity, I’m reminded yet again that the best way to teach my children a desired behavior is to stop the lecturing and model it. I am their prototype to what it means to be an adult in the world. I set the standard for what is acceptable. When I look at it that way I am forced to do a little self-evaluating. How am I living generously?

In many ways a generous life is a subtle one, because generosity and humility go hand in hand. I don’t want to bring attention to my behavior by making every kind offering to the world a teachable moment for my 4-year-old. That would be manipulating the true reason for the offering. No, I must trust that my child can glean from what she sees. And as my kids grow and mature they will realize that what I expect of them, matches my own conduct.

To live a generous life, with my time, talents and treasure, in front of my children it might look like babysitting for a friend who needs a break, saying “thank you” as often as I can to as many people as I can, buying groceries for a neighbor, or gas for the car parked next to me. It might be lending out my things, or stepping in when I can help. It is a quick-to-offer attitude and a belief that what I have been gifted, in both the tangible and intangible, is meant to be shared.

Just as with all things parenting it’s the repetition that speaks. The everyday every day, moment upon moment, that snowballs into a generous life. Because I don’t want to scream at my kids to be nice to people. I want to give them someone to look up to that is worth imitating.


Alexandra Kuykendall
As a mom to four girls, ages 3 to 12, Alexandra Kuykendall’s days are spent washing
dishes, driving to and from different schools and trying to find a better solution to the laundry dilemma. She writes to capture the places where motherhood meets everyday life to remember the small, yet significant moments in the midst of the blur. She is the author of The Artist’s Daughter, A Memoir, a contributor to Be you, Bravely, An Experiment in Courage and acts as the Specialty Content Editor for MOPS International. A city girl at heart, she makes her home in the shadow of downtown Denver. You can read more of Alex’s everyday thoughts and connect with her at AlexandraKuykendall.com.