Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Promoting Generosity in Children -- Jeffrey Sippy, a Good Dad in Training

My wife recently bought me a book of quotations from Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  If you can find such a book I encourage you to get one.  Teach your children to be generous the same way you teach them anything.    

Children are amazing. They can be taught amazing things.  Children can be taught to kick a soccer ball, set a volleyball, and hit a golf ball.  Children can be taught to play the violin, skate forward and backwards, and operate a handheld electronic device.  Children can also be taught to be generous and to put the needs of others before their own.  Children can be taught to appreciate what they have.  Children can be taught to share.       
If our children are going to be generous then generosity needs to be the lifestyle and cultural value of our home.  Generosity does not just happen by wishing or wanting it.  Generosity needs to be as high a passion and priority as the other high passions and priorities of your life.  Generosity takes work and effort.               

Mother Teresa was a generous woman.  We need to highlight and profile generous people in our children’s life.  Children look up to pro athletes, actors and actresses, and musicians.  Children should also be encouraged to look up to generous people.   

There used to be a commercial with Michael Jordan.  The jingle went like this: “I want to be, I want to be, I want to be like Mike.”  Can you imagine children wanting to be like Mother Teresa or someone like her?        

Ask yourself right now, “What kind of person do you want your child to grow up to be?”  Would you like your children to be good at sports or music, math or science?  What if you were to say, “I want my child to be a generous person.”  

For you and me to raise generous children requires more than a casual conversation or a handful of change in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas.  We need to help our children set tangible and sacrificial goals with clear objectives that benefit others in need.  Our children will benefit from knowing that they are blessed beyond measure and that their generosity makes a difference in the lives of others.      

Here are three ways I have taught my children to be generous.  I want to stress, however, that generosity is not just doing projects and generous things. Generosity is being a generous person from the inside out. 
1.  At birthdays, do not have children bring gifts for your child. Rather, pick a charity or a disaster relief and have children bring monetary gifts or food items to be given away.

2.  Have your children mow lawns or shovel the snow off walks for free.

3.  Teach your children to budget their money with a set percentage always to be given away. Start small, like 1 or 2 % with the objective of reaching a goal of 5% or 10% or more

      Jeff Sippy, a Dad-In-Training, is the father of three young men and the husband of Cindy. He enjoys sailing every chance that he gets. He is the senior pastor at Redeemer Lutheran in Springfield, MO and can be reached for question or comment at jsippy@rlcmail.org

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Did You Say, "Thank You?" -- Springfield Dad, Kevin Weaver

As good dads, we strive to give our kids the best we can offer. But somehow, especially in the past, few decades, giving our kids “the best” has triggered some unintentional consequences. And one of those consequences is the production of a generation of young people who vehemently struggle with gratefulness. Now, before you think I am about to launch into a tirade regarding the millennial demonstrations we have seen occurring post-presidential election, hold up. When I think of a lack of gratefulness in the generation behind me, all I have to do is blame my own. Case in point, I have a very nice vehicle. When I first purchased said vehicle, I was thrilled. But, as time and my car have rolled on, I catch myself looking around at other very nice vehicles. You get where I’m going. So, how do we dads, who are possibly a little spoiled ourselves, create environments in our homes in which we can raise children possessing a grateful attitude? As always: we model it.

Modeling an attitude, a lifestyle even, of gratefulness can happen on both minute and massive scales. When children are very young, simply hearing the adults in their lives consistently and sincerely saying, “thank you,” is huge. This may not be earth-shattering advice, but all one has to do is go out in public for the day and consciously count the “thank-yous” to be surprised.

My wife, a middle school teacher, loves to treat her class. However, she says that anytime she gives out treats, she mentally tracks the expressions of gratitude. The last time she tracked, out of 115 students, seven said, “Thank you.” Seven. She says she doesn’t give anything to get a “thanks,” but that it is sad and disconcerting that students – and humans in general – have lost the fine art of thanking. The much needed art of being grateful and living lives of gratitude.

As children grow, there are numerous community opportunities, through our schools, non-profits, and religious organizations in which we can continue this modeling of gratefulness. When our sons were in elementary school, we often spent Thanksgiving Day serving homeless members of our town a special, holiday meal at a local hotel ballroom. One of our fondest memories as parents is that of our youngest, then around age six or seven, cheerfully carrying cups of pudding to downtrodden, displaced people, then pulling a chair up right beside them to chat their ears off regarding his busy and fascinating first grade life. It not only made him grateful for the home he had, but it fostered in him the ability to see all humans as fellow humans.

Into their teens and college years, we supported and encouraged our boys’ travel and service with campus groups, ministry organizations, and ROTC military outreaches.  We’ve lost count of the combined excursions, but never the count of life-changing, gratitude-inducing, human-kindness-in-action moments they have produced within our now-grown children. Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s great, Kev. But, my kids are really young.” Or, quite possibly, “I’d love to see my kids have experiences like that, but money and opportunity are scarce.” You need not look further than your elderly neighbor’s un-mowed lawn, or the person who opens the door for you and your little one to walk through. Grab your mower, have your kid pull weeds, and simply say “thanks,” in front of them once in a while. Or better yet, all the time. Remember, your kids are watching. 

Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at kweaver@network211.com

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Generous Giving from the Mouths of Babes -- Springfield Dad Sid Whiting

Dad: “What does generosity mean to you?”

Aaron: “Giving stuff to people and being happy with what they are doing.”

Jonathan: “Being kind with what you have.”

Faith: “We do three things with money: Spend, Save, and Share.  Sharing is being generous.”

Sometimes my kids make me feel like I may qualify as a Good Dad some day.

Make no mistake, my kids started out as all kids do: whining, demanding, wanting to be fed, cleaned, cuddled, soothed, entertained . . . and all that RIGHT NOW!  It didn’t matter if my dear wife or I were tired, sick, hungry, hurt, frustrated, or not feeling up to par.  They had needs and those needs had to be fulfilled immediately!

Gradually, our kids grew older and we grew more resilient.  Being a parent to a needy child may be some people’s first attempt at being truly selfless.  That is to say, the moment when we first make someone else’s needs more important than our own, we have an opportunity to be truly generous.

My parents didn’t indoctrinate me nearly as much as I do my kids.  That’s not to say their method of child rearing is any better or worse than what I’m doing.  My folks were pretty easy going, and their approach was based on the philosophy that, “More is caught than taught.”  In other words, instead of making me write an essay about being generous, or reading a church tract or having a Bible study about being generous, my parents just were generous people.  As far as I can tell, their plan was that my brother and I would figure out that this was the right way to live as we observed them giving to church and charity.

I’m more methodical than my parents were when it comes to teaching my kids.  Maybe because I am a teacher by training, though not presently practicing my craft in a high school environment, I want to be sure there are lesson plans and an overall curriculum. I want to be certain all the general concepts are received and practiced, and all the detailed points are covered.  For example, our kids receive a commission for doing chores above and beyond regular works expected as being part of our family.  Out of that money earned, we teach them to do three things: Spend, Save and Give.  For my youngest, my dear Miss Faith, it’s Spend, Save, and Share.  She has a piggy bank with those labels on it.  Close enough for this professor.

By definition, we can’t be generous in isolation.  Generosity invites community.  First within our four walls, we practice being generous.  As the old saying goes, “Generosity begins at home.”  It doesn’t make sense to give all our money to someone in a foreign country if my kids are wearing shoes with holes, held together by duct tape, and two sizes too small.  But once everyone has several pairs of decent shoes for school, play, work, and church, then it’s time to see if we can wrap up a few pairs of Nike’s for the local homeless shelter at Christmas.  Our kids know how to be generous, because we dads are generous with them.  When their immediate needs are met, it helps open their eyes to the unmet needs of others.  It’s their invitation to practice generosity of their own.

Volunteering together is another great way to spend time together while teaching generosity.  On a recent weekend, my son Aaron and I helped pack almost 15,000 meals at Convoy of Hope.  Whether it was from two hours on our feet on a macaroni dinner assembly line or seeing the sheer size of the food and supplies warehoused, my son remarked that he never realized how many people had needs they couldn’t fill for themselves. 

Whatever way you choose to teach your kids, be sure they both hear and see you being generous.  Money is important, but not the only thing with which we can be generous.  We can be generous with our time, our smiles, our handshakes, our sincere compliments, our praise, our patience, and our spirit of perseverance.  As dads, we have many resources at our disposal given to us for a reason. Per my daughter, one of the best uses is to share them with others.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Raising Appreciative, Generous Children -- Springfield Dad Jeff Sippy

It was the worst whipping I ever received but it left an impression on my soul as well as my seat.  I will never forget the whipping.  I hope I never forget the lesson either.    

My twin brother and I have the same birthday.  My sister’s birthday is five days before my brother’s and mine, though she is six years older.  One year my uncle sent three birthday cards – one to me, one to my brother, and one to my sister.  My card had three crisp five dollar bills inside.  My brother’s and sister’s card had none. 

My parents tried to explain that the $15 dollars was to be shared equally.  But the lesson was lost on this ten-year-old boy.  I threw a fit.   My parents threw the book at me.  They took the money away and gave me the whipping of my life.  I was a selfish, thoughtless child.      

I don’t agree with whippings.  But I do agree that there are ways to impress the values of appreciation and generosity upon our children.  We want our children to be grateful for what they have.  We want our children to be generous with others.     

Teaching our children to be appreciative for what they have and generous with others begins with you and me.  As Good Dads it is our job to establish a tone in our home that is joyful, hopeful, and grateful.  Our children are watching us.  They are listening to us.  Our children need to see an “Attitude of Gratitude” in us and a heart for others.     

I asked my boys – Jason, 21; Aaron, 23; and Clayton, 25 – how they would raise children to be appreciative and generous.  This is what they had to say. 
  1. Involve children in the family budget, family vacations, and major purchases.  If your children want to go skiing or buy a car, have them start saving their money.
  2. Lead by example.  Your children learn from you.  If you want your children to be appreciative and generous then be appreciative and generous parents.
  3. Talk to your children about being appreciative and being generous.  Talk to them about selfish, too.  If you let your children’s selfish behavior go unchecked then they will conclude this acceptable behavior.
  4. Give your children a place to apply what they are learning – sports, summer camps, and other activities.  Lessons become complete and meaningful when children experience them for themselves.
  5. Teach your children to say “please” and “thank you,” and help other children who are not as strong or able.  If someone needs help with something, give a hand!

My boys are raising me to be a Good Dad!  Let’s learn from them and from your children, too.  Let’s start small, let’s start at home, and let’s start today.  Let’s raise children who are grateful for what they have and who are generous with those around them. 

I am grateful for you!  You are a Good Dad.

Jeff Sippy, a Dad-In-Training, is the father of three young men and the husband of Cindy. He enjoys sailing every chance that he gets. He is the senior pastor at Redeemer Lutheran in Springfield, MO and can be reached for question or comment at jsippy@rlcmail.org