What Parents Should Teach Their Oldest Child About Generosity

I am a 44 year old man who growing up was the oldest of five children. Through a series of events that requires its own post, I have become reunited with my youngest step-sister after twenty years. We were not estranged but due to the divorce of my dad and step-mom (her mom), we became scattered for lack of a better word.

What amazed me was she had some extremely nice things to say about my role in her life during our childhood that I truly did not deserve. I was basically a good kid but was focused on school, work, hanging out with my friends, sports, girls…you know, things a 15-20 year old focuses on. I never knew the lasting influence I would have as the eldest brother.

As I thought about this, most kids are not taught to be good stewards of their influence, much less generous with it. Frankly, it never occurred me as a teenager that I even had influence. Based upon my own experience, the following are thoughts I feel that every parent should share with their oldest son or daughter about generosity and influence. If I knew then what I know now, I could have made an even larger, more strategic impact in the lives of those around me, especially my brothers and sisters.

  • Enjoy Their Lives. I should played more ball with my brothers and taken my sisters to McDonald’s or the mall. God was (and continues) shaping them to uniquely have His story told through their lives. All older siblings should leverage their influence and be a part of that story. I should have just enjoyed them more and watched God work.
  • Understand Their Lives. Men are fixers, even at an early age, and we struggle with developing listening skills. Older brothers should say “Tell me about your day” and listen to their struggles in relationships, academics, getting along with parents, and household chores. Older siblings, in general, should view their relationships as not one of competing but rather one involved in completing their development.
  • Be A Model For Their Lives. Once investment has taken place, the younger children are more likely to listen to the older ones. I knew how to calm dad down and please my parents. I knew how to stay out of trouble and what to say…and not say. The eldest brother or sister needs to place an emphasis on coaching their younger siblings through this process and helping them navigate life’s struggles.
  • Protect Their Lives. This one actually comes easy as especially older brothers do a very good job of not approving of any of their sisters’ boyfriends. What doesn’t come easy though is understanding we actually have to protect their hearts as well. I am constantly amazed at what people remember I did 25 years ago that I had long forgotten.

If I did any of the above, it was merely by accident. Sometimes you actually do find something good stumbling around in the dark. But now that we are all grown, here’s what I know.

  1. I never knew how connected my heart would be towards my nieces and nephews when I became an adult. They are all just great kids and I love them dearly. We all know that how the parents turn out will greatly impact the quality of the lives of the children. I wish I could have had someone tell me that when I was younger so I could have been far more strategic in my influence over my younger brothers and sisters.
  2. I never knew how proud I would be of them when they grow up to love the Lord, serve Him, and have quality home lives.
  3. I never knew how much I would hurt over them as well as how much I would celebrate with them as they live out their lives.

Generosity starts when you’re young and it starts with those you love most.

Parents, teach your oldest children that the greatest gifts received in this life come from what you generously give away. And teach them that they are establishing influence for a time in which they cannot see. I wish someone would have taught me that.

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About Brian Dodd on Leadership

I am a church stewardship and leadership consultant for INJOY Stewardship Solutions. This blog combines my personal passions of church, sports, pop culture and family into a single leadership resource. I trust your time on this site will create conversations and add value to your life.

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  1. Most Popular Posts of May 2010 « Brian Dodd On Leadership - 06/20/2010

    […] What Parents Should Teach Their Oldest Child About Generosity […]

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