I am a 67-year-old grandfather, married to one woman, Lynda, for almost 45 years. I have a 38-yr-old daughter and a 36-year-old son. Both are happily married and each has children. I am proud of my family, and the fact both of our kids have turned out to be successful in their individual lives.
Lynda and I waited to have children for six years after getting married. We wanted for me to finish seminary education at SMU and for us to have some time married before having children. And we wanted, if possible, to have a son and a daughter. Our plans worked out pretty well!
Our hopes for our children to make it on their own have been fulfilled. They have found intelligent mates to marry. They have their own homes, and they work hard at parenting. How did our kids turn out so well?
I reflected on that question this week. There is no single thing that created them becoming good people, but rather many things. It began with us wanting to have children, and waiting for a good time where we could more easily care for them. Lynda was a stay-at-home mom until both kids were in grade school, so she could devote her full attention to them. Once in grade school, she just worked part-time so she could send the kids off to school in the morning, and be home when they got out of school. That was very intentional. We could have used the extra money if she had worked full time, but we both thought it would be better for the kids to do it this way.
At dinner time we sat at the table together and talked about the day. Mealtime became an important part of our family routine. Lynda was awesome in helping the kids with homework as they grew older. On Sundays we all went to church together, and all of us went to Sunday school. As a pastor that was just expected, but had I not been a pastor we would have done the same. That’s the way it was when I grew up in my family. I realized that being a pastor greater scrutiny would be given to our kids by parishioners. We heard plenty of stories of rebellious preacher’s kids! We wanted to make our home life as normal as possible and not put greater pressure on our kids to conform to some image of what a “preacher’s kid” should look like. I think we did pretty good on that score.
The first half of my ministry my salary wasn’t too great, but we saved so we could always take a relaxing, week-long vacation somewhere nice, either in Florida or in Colorado. We still talk about those road trips and how much fun they were. Likewise, we took our kids to appropriate movies we could all watch together, like E.T. or Back to the Future. We lived close to the kids’ grandparents and decided to live in Missouri just for that reason. We wanted our children to really know their grandparents. That, too, had a significant effect with our children who grew up loving their grandparents, and extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins.
I think our kids turned out very well because we invested ourselves in their lives while they lived at home. We taught our values to them, and demonstrated those values in everyday living. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts we gave to our kids was a stable and loving marriage that Elizabeth and James could observe every day. I cannot overstate how important that is! While many people in their thirties have rejected church, both of ours attend United Methodist churches in Kansas and Michigan. I am very happy knowing that. In mostly little ways we became a close family that loves being together. The investments were worth it!
Mark Mildren, father of two adults children and grandfather of three, is a retired Methodist minister. He spends part of almost every week working at Good Dads. He can be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Someone recently asked me how my wife and I raised sons who are what they deemed as “givers.” Keep in mind, our family is flawed and faces many of the challenges all families face, but when asked this question I had to agree that giving seems to be a lifestyle for our boys. Later, when I told my wife about the conversation and asked her what she thought the key to living a giving lifestyle was she simply replied, “Kids can’t become givers until they stop being takers.”
Her sentiment stuck with me for days. Our current society is definitely one which breeds “takers.” It is fostered; it is championed; it is cheered. Thoughts of self quite often supersede thoughts of others. When it comes to parenting, I feel as if I am a broken record. But raising selfless, generous kids – kids who think of others before they think of themselves – takes teaching, training, exposure, and as always, modeling. When my boys would fight (yes, siblings sometimes fight) and become upset over not getting what they individually wanted, I had to ask myself about the kind of example I was setting. Was I griping about my job? My coworkers? The fact that I wasn’t being heard, or promoted, or lauded, or compensated, or served? And if all of this grumbling was indeed taking place in my life, was it taking place within earshot of my children? Conversely, were they hearing me speak of the needs of others? Were they hearing me make plans to donate to those less fortunate or to serve, in various capacities, my community? Were my children hearing “they” more than “me” come from my own mouth?
For years, I thought generosity was most difficult for very young children to understand. However, as my boys grew, I quickly realized that while some people seem to naturally be more “giving,” training our sons and daughters early on in the ways of generosity helps break the cycle of “me-ism” that will certainly bombard their world in their tweens, teens and beyond. Take a toddler to visit lonely “grandparents” in the nursing home. Let a preschooler tag along as you ring a neighbor’s doorbell to deliver goodies. Help a first grader make a “bank” out of an old 2 liter pop bottle, and then challenge him or her to fill it up with change to donate in order to provide blankets for the local homeless shelter.
Over the past couple of decades, all sorts of innovative ideas have surfaced regarding how to give. Everything from “you purchase a pair of shoes, a shoe-less person in another country gets a pair of shoes, too” to “buy a goat for a family in a far-off village for your Christmas” have brought awareness and “care-ness” to homes all across our country. There is no shortage of things that can be given, just a shortage of parents willing to take the time to make sure their kids get the opportunity to give.
In this season of giving, I am inspired by the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and Winston S. Churchill. May you be inspired as well.
“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation—either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
-Winston S. Churchill
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 email@example.com
*As a kid, my favorite of all the Holidays was Thanksgiving. We always celebrated at my Grandparents' house. It wasn’t out of the question to have 35-40 people gathered around five or six different tables. Their house was always full of laughter and love. Everyone would eat to their full. The parents would catch up on each others lives; the kids would catch up on play. It was a tradition I counted on, one I needed.
Thanksgiving evening, my Aunt Beckie would sit down at the old piano next to the kitchen. Like clockwork, you’d see most everyone shift their attention in her direction. She’d start playing old hymns from times past. Grandpa would always stand to the side of the piano singing with her. Pretty soon, ten other voices chimed in. If I close my eyes, I can still hear those sounds; I can still see a few tears rolling down thankful faces. It made me appreciate what I had. It helped me understand what it meant to be thankful for life and family.
With today’s fast paced culture, I’ve learned I have to be a bit more forward in how I encourage my kids to have an attitude of gratefulness. Technology, though it has it advantages, has watered down social interactions, and I want more than that for my children. I want my kids to feel the joy that sitting down at a big table with those they love, and lots of food, brings. I want them to have memories of playing outside with their cousins and friends without the burden of a cell phone. I want them to experience the unmatched feeling of giving to those who can do nothing for them in return. Twenty years from now I want them to be able sit down with their children, with watery eyes and a full heart, telling them stories of how it used to be. Just thinking about that kind of legacy makes my heart overflow.
So as we go into this Thanksgiving Holiday, here’s my wish for us all:
May our hearts be open.
May our burdens be lite.
And in all things, Be Thankful.
*We were unable to include Chris's post at Thanksgiving, but we thought much of what he said also applied to the Christmas holidays.
Chris Moss, with his wife Tiffany, keep company with five lively children. He currently resides on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri. Chris is the Missional Co-Founder of the grass-roots community organization The Serve Movement. He's a writer, a dreamer, and a voice for the underdog. He can be reached for comment or question at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/thechrismoss).
I think about promotions in three ways: 1) an advertised special purchase price, 2) a behavior we encourage, and 3) a position of higher responsibility in a career field. All three apply to our role as Dad’s helping promote our children’s generosity.
I’m straying into the topic of business for a minute. When a business thinks of promotions, it’s typically related to item 1 and 2 above. This holiday season, Black Friday and Cyber Monday (and Tuesday, and Wednesday, and yes, I was still getting emails on THURSDAY after Thanksgiving!) are some of the biggest times of year when businesses put marketing into high gear to promote what they are selling. Many hours and dollars are spent in a highly intentional, well-planned process, to get customers to behave a certain way.
I think that’s a great place to start when considering how to teach our children to be generous.
Planning. How are we dads generous? Do we plan ways to give our time, energy, and money to others? How about our spouse—that person we promised to love more than any other person for a lifetime? I figure if we dads can remember our wives’ birthdays, Christmas, Valentines, Mother’s Day, and the ever-critical anniversary dates that is our bare minimum standard.
Do whatever it takes—write it on a calendar or plug the dates into your phone. The mother of our children should not be left wondering if we remembered to be generous with her. It should be something we plan for, not a hastily thrown together scheme at the last minute. Kids are watching. If a week before the big event, Dad invites the kids to help in a “secret” project to make Mom a home made card for her birthday or to help hide her Valentine’s chocolate box, they’ll understand this generosity concept is a big deal!
Modeling Behavior. If we want our kids to be generous, we need to be generous. Recently, as we enjoyed some donuts downtown at the local Hurts Donut shop I asked my twin sons, “How should a Dad teach his children to be generous?” Interesting responses:
Position of Responsibility. I like to think of myself as an asset manager for God. In my local church, we use the word “steward” to mean a person who takes care of things that belong to someone else. The key to all of this generosity, for me, is looking at the role model of the greatest giver, my Lord Jesus Christ, and seeing a responsibility he has entrusted to me. When I’m tired and the kids are whiny and demanding, it’s hard to think about being generous to them, my wife, or anyone else. Some days I’d rather sit in a comfy chair, crack open a beer, and watch TV. But I’m called to be a servant leader, and nowhere in that job description do I see, “Sit in the corner and suck your thumb until you feel better about yourself.” Instead, by giving attention to the people around me, the selflessness that Christmas reminds us of is front and center of my calling and career as a Dad.
Generosity starts at home. I may not be the handsomest or fanciest Dad when the day has been a rough one, but a smile, a pat on the back, a hug, a “glad to see you today” goes a long way to showing my family how to be generous. Sometimes a surprise trip by their favorite donut shop is more than enough to model the thoughtfulness we would have our children display toward others, and all that sugar can spark some interesting conversation!
I’m a career Dad, an asset manager who has been graciously given a wife and three kids to help “manage.” To love, cherish, pray for, encourage, teach, and enjoy.
Sid Whiting is the father of three and the husband of one. He lives with his wife Gail and their children in Springfield, Missouri. He also enjoys real estate investing, serving in the 135th Army Band as a percussionist and bass guitarist, and plays in the Praise Band "Soul Purpose" and the "Hallelujah Bells" hand bell choir. He can be reached for comment or question at email@example.com or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/WiseSteward).