Many parents are concerned about the effects of spoiling their child; concerned that too many toys, too much fun, too much received too easily, will result in a child who is materialistic, focused on instant gratification and selfish. To prevent this kind of spoiling, parents may measure out toys and activities carefully lest they give ‘too much’, ban specific activities and toys altogether as ‘a waste’, or ensure that their child needs to wait or to work to ‘earn’ the objects or experiences of their desire. In short, parents may attempt to counter selfish and indulgent materialism by teaching their children frugal austerity. I have a different view. In my opinion, the opposite of selfish materialism is not frugal austerity. In my opinion, frugal austerity is just as materialistic as hedonistic materialism. Both the instant gratification, possession-obsessed selfish materialist and the stingy, careful, penny-counting economist are equally obsessed with things. In my opinion, the opposite of materialism, both the selfish, hedonistic kind and the frugal, stingy kind is generosity. The generous person is focused, not on things, but on people – on their needs, their dreams, and their joy. A generous person is equally capable of delaying short-term gratification for a long-term gain and of enjoying fully today’s abundance without guilt or judgment. With generosity, the joy of others is not something to be quantified or judged and things can only be ‘wasted’ if they go unenjoyed. Open-hearted generosity means sharing freely life’s fortunes without judgment, letting go of material possessions with equanimity and finding the joy in the simplest of pleasures. So I aim to be generous with my children: to share my love, my time and, yes, my money freely and generously. I do so without fear of spoiling them, secure in the knowledge that I am, in fact, teaching them, by example, to be generous.
Apply it to your life: Do you model generosity? How?