“Mommy, I want to give Monkey George to Quinn” my daughter said. She had received two of the same gifts from family and she wanted to pass one on to her best friend. My daughter was two. She has had to learn that “the next time we get to the store” may not be tomorrow or even next week. Money is tight, like it is for most families these days. But she doesn’t throw a fit, she doesn’t demand, she simply handles it with grace and tries in her own way to be generous.

Too often we as parents believe that money equals happiness. But go to the pictures of your child’s first birthday, what was their favorite gift? It was probably the pile of wrapping paper that ended up at their feet as you unwrapped their gifts. So now with money tight for everyone we have a chance to change as individuals, as a family, as a community, as a world. Starting today we are going to raise generous children who do not throw fits in a store for any other reason than that they need a nap. Starting today we are going to teach our children how to notice and care about those around them. And starting today we are not going to feel guilty about saying no. Today we make a change. Talk to your child no matter how young they are about the world around them. If you take the time to explain then your child will be able to better understand emotion. This will make them more compassionate adults who can care about others. Perhaps they will be willing to do more than stand on the side lines when someone is in pain or need. As you go shopping don’t let your kid’s harass you into buying things you don’t need. Simply make it a game. Turn your shopping list into a treasure map, have your kids “adventure” to discover the things your family needs. Make sure you praise your child on their discovery of the items around a store or market. Then talk with them about where these items come from locally, regionally or globally. Creating an adventure will distract your child from being side tracked by unnecessary items because you can discuss the adventure as you finish your shopping instead of fighting over one last thing.

When you start teaching about money and establishing allowance make sure they have a system that teaches them to be responsible with their money and to think of others. In order to do this you have to be sure that your child is doing something to earn the money. Otherwise they will grow up believing that you are cash machine that freely gives away money for no good reason. Set up jobs and if those jobs don’t get done on a weekly basis then there is no allowance, because allowance is not free money just for being a kid.

As you hand out allowance divide and store the money in fours: One for spending now, they can use this for small items like candy and other inexpensive things. One for short-term savings, this is the money they can spend in a month or two for that toy they want but cannot afford on a single weeks allowance. One for long-term savings, this money goes to the bank for things like college or an overnight school trip. Finally have one portion for charity; they can pick from a charity your family gives to and either give cash or buy something to donate such as a chew toy for the animal shelter or food for the homeless.

Finally allow your child to give even on their own special days. Volunteer parties give kids a chance to take their friends to different places in order to help others for their birthday. For instance if they like animals they can go to an animal shelter where all the kids give pets a bath. Guests can meet at your home and create projects that they can donate to the children’s ward at a hospital in your area. Kids and chaperones can go to a homeless shelter where they serve lunch. Or they could also go to a retirement home where perhaps there is a resident who shares a birthday with your child that they could share their party with. The options are endless but keep your kids thinking about others even on holidays that are their own.

There is no reason your child cannot think of others even when times are tough. A child’s smile costs nothing but it can brighten a person’s entire day. You simply have to start this generous behavior at home; because if we all work together we’ll get through this and be better for it. Good Luck.