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Teaching our Children:
Show Me the Way

By Mark Brandenburg

My intentions were really quite noble. It was the aftermath of the holidays. It seemed as though my kids had enough new toys and "things" to fill a large building. As a responsible father, it was becoming clear to me that the true meaning of the holidays was being lost beneath an avalanche of gifts, materialism and greed.

I came to the conclusion that something must be done. My children would learn the important values of giving and generosity by actually doing it. I decided that my kids would round up all of their old and "not much used" toys and we would take them down to the local Goodwill.

How could we lose here? We would feel the wonderful feelings that giving to others creates in us, and children with fewer material goods than ours would benefit from receiving these great gifts.

Do as I say …
I approached my seven-year-old daughter with my decision. "No!" she shrieked. "I don't want to give away my stuff!"

This response was surprising coming from my daughter, who is so often generous with her belongings. It appeared that she just needed a rational explanation concerning the reasons she would do such a thing. As I unsuccessfully attempted to have her "see the light" around this issue, her gaze locked onto me in a tight hold.

"What are you giving up?" she asked.

… not as I do!
The sensation I was most aware of was the burning feeling in my face and the back of my neck -- the kind of feeling you get when you're embarrassed and uncomfortable and there's no escaping. For quite a long time, no words came to me.

"You have a good point, honey, let's give this a little thought," I heard myself say.

My daughter went away feeling she'd been heard (and, I suspect, victorious), while I needed some time to gather my thoughts. The realization that I'd not been active lately in charitable giving to others was difficult enough to swallow. The tough part was that my daughter had exposed my ego, which I had disguised as nobility.

Not only had I expected my seven-year-old to have a social conscience, I had forgotten the best way to teach my children. I'd forgotten how to show them the way.

Thank goodness my daughter was there to remind me.

Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC, is the author of 25 Secrets of Emotionally Intelligent Fathers and is a personal coach to fathers and business owners. Read more about our NFO contributor Mark Brandenburg.

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"The media have become the mainstream culture in children's lives. Parents have become the alternative. Americans once expected parents to raise their children in accordance with the dominant cultural messages. Today they are expected to raise their children in opposition to it."
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