Marion Winik on Raising Givers

November 22, 2011

Want to sum up a parent’s job in one word? It might be “giving”.

Marion Winik says lately she’s been working on teaching her youngest child to be giving too.

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I was so touched by this commentary and would dearly love to get a transcript of it. of the many do-overs I've had co-parenting my nephew along with my sister, the biggest was my lack of emphasis on the yawning socioeconomic inequities in our society. I wish I'd imparted the lesson that participation in community service was a non-optional responsibility. I think it should be required as part of school curriculum in learning citizenship. the reason everyone complains of kids being entitled and lacking in empathy is because they are and they do. the road to hell was paved with my good intentions: We wanted our nephew to have everything we didn't have and forgot to balance his overseas trips and other entitlements with the reminder that they were exceptional, ie, they were privileges, not the norm. it may not be possible to teach empathy, but by having a requirement of community service, at least kids are exposed to a broader cross section of the population, particularly if the school and hometown lack heterogeneity. although my 23 yr old is a good boy/man with a good heart, he is not as tolerant, generous, or culturally competent as I'd hoped. I came of age during the not-what-your-country-can-do-for-you-but-what-you-can-do-for-your-country/peace corps/kennedy/camelot zeitgeist. from adolescence on I volunteered in state hospitals, elementary schools, adult daycare, as a CASA advocating for foster children, and, finally as a clinical psychology doctoral candidate, doing internships in community mental health for the past 5 years. My husband volunteers his services fundraising for and creating solar energy systems for wildlife conservationists in Africa and other third world countries. So, we (wrongly, it turns out) assumed our nephew would learn by example, rather than from our explicitly preaching at him. If I had to do it over, however, I'd be much more proactive--not in a sanctimonious there-are-starving-kids-in-China that our parents preached to us so we'd finish our dinner, but more actively than our low-key, overly implicit approach. Every parent has a list of do-overs, however, I feek I let my nephew down by failing to teach him service is the rent we pay for living on this earth. thank you for changing your daughter's zeitgeist for the better and for teaching her the important lesson of "paying it forward."

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