Receiving a call from your child’s teacher during regular school hours is never something you are fully prepared for.
Last autumn had already been a time of great transition in our family, and I was deeply concerned with how my five-year-old son Taylor was coping. Seeing his teacher’s number pop up on my cell phone was not particularly reassuring.
Bracing myself, I took a deep breath and answered the call.
His teacher began.
I just wanted to call to tell you the sweetest story about Taylor and what a kind heart he has!
She went on, explaining that they were preparing as a class to make applesauce from apples that each child had been instructed to bring from home. For one reason or another, there were several students who had not brought the requisite apple with them to class. Happily, there were a few children that had brought more than one apple with them and so the extras were distributed as far as they would go. This still left several children, however, without an apple with which to participate in their class project. Saddened by her students’ disheartened expressions, the teacher was left with few options.
And then Taylor raised his hand.
They can have my apple, he said.
Just like that.
Without any thought for himself, he stood up and gave his only apple to a boy who had none.
It was one of those moments that does a Momma proud.
Applesauce never tasted so sweet.
Since that moment a year ago, I have reflected often on how our teaching as parents has affected our children’s understanding and desire to develop a giving heart. Certainly, we have done our part in trying to teach the Golden Rule. We have read the parable of the Good Samaritan as a family often. These have been lessons taught in a more formal setting. But I believe that more often than not, it has been the little examples we try to show daily as we give to those around us that have brought about the greatest teaching moments.
Letting them accompany me as we take a dinner to a family in need.
Having them witness their daddy help an elderly couple with a heavy load in a store parking lot.
Allowing them to assist as we prepare the family meal together.
Encouraging them in their efforts as they help comfort a crying sibling.
Because they know that having a giving heart is important to my husband and I, it has become important to them as well.
A study conducted at Princeton in the 1960’s demonstrated these same findings in a remarkable way.
The researchers used adult models to teach children about charity and greed. These models would talk to the children about both charity and greed and also act in a charitable or greedy manner. Sometimes the adult would act in accordance with what he was teaching, and other times he would do the opposite.
The study demonstrated that moral preaching by itself did not influence the children. If the model spoke about charity but then acted greedily, the children followed the example of greed. Those findings really didn’t surprise me in the least. However, it was also discovered that if the model spoke encouragingly about greed yet acted in a charitable manner, the children disregarded the teachings about greed and instead acted with charity. (See J. H. Bryan, “Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Model Inconsistency and Its Effect on Self-sacrifice,” Research Bulletin 68–16, Princeton: Educational Testing Service, 1968, quoted also in this article.)
I found that fascinating.
Knowing that it is ultimately our own example that will shape and define our children’s desire to give and serve others, I have found myself more consciously aware of how I proceed in my daily routine. And though I am far from being the perfect example, I have made an increased effort to give a little more selflessly– especially within the walls of my own home.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said:
We live in a time when sacrifice is definitely out of fashion, when the outside forces that taught our ancestors the need for unselfish cooperative service have diminished. Someone has called this the “me” generation– a selfish time when everyone seems to be asking, what’s in it for me?
The values of the world wrongly teach that “it’s all about me.” That corrupting attitude produces no change and no growth. It is contrary to eternal progress toward the destiny God has identified in His great plan for His children. The plan of the gospel of Jesus Christ lifts us above our selfish desires and teaches us that this life is all about what we can become. (“Unselfish Service,” April 2009 Conference Report)
The world will not teach our children to give.
In this world of disposable income, possessions, and relationships, there are fewer examples than we would like in our children’s sphere of influence that teach them the value of a giving heart.
As parents, we must set the standard for them to follow. And as we strive to, like our Savior, “go about doing good,” (see Acts 10:38) each of our hearts will benefit– growing ever so slightly more like His, which we do our imperfect best to emulate.
For as long as she can remember, Tiffany has been writing down thoughts and stories to help her make sense of the world. A certified city mouse gone country, she was born and raised in her beloved hometown of Chicago before moving westward to pursue a college education. She attended both BYU and Utah State, earning a B.A. in Liberal Arts from the latter. She married her best friend Bryson in 2002, and together they reside in small town Utah with their four beautiful children. A few of her weaknesses include cheesecake, British literature, and old Cary Grant movies. She blogs at an ensign, waving.
Join us for Wordfull Wednesday! Write a post about a time when your children surprised you by serving others. What did you learn from that experience? Come back here and link to your blog post. Make sure to visit the other posts linked to, as well as leave encouraging thoughts!