Gift-Giving Advice for Children

by | Oct 30, 2013

I heard a great story last week. A father told me that his young daughter had asked if she could adopt a child in another country and his reply was something like, “Oh honey, the organizations that say they do that are just scams, and the money doesn’t really feed the child.”

She was a determined daughter and set out to save her money to do it anyway. She kept the picture of the child she adopted on her bedroom mirror for many years.

Fast forward to that same grown-up daughter who now has a picture of another adopted child on her own refrigerator, and a granddaughter who has come along and is very proud of what she and mom are doing together.

What made this story funny was listening to Dad describe the experience of realizing his daughter was going against his advice, and what made it great was grand-dad describing how proud he was of daughter and granddaughter.

Harry Truman said, “I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.”

Parents worry about raising selfish children in our materialistic world. The answer to teaching generosity is often right in front of us as Harry said – figure out what they want to do and then advise them to do it.

I believe helping them do it is an important part of the work of parenting.

Does the same advice apply to adult children? What if you know that your adult child wants to give to causes you don’t support? What if they want to give in different ways than you did?

Harry’s advice is just as golden as ever:

Simple Directions

Ask what your adult child is interested in and why. Listen to the answer. Then follow Harry’s direction and advise them to do it. Wait about six months and ask them to share what they learned. Listen again. Ask them what they want to give to next. Advise them to do it and come back again and share what they learned. Keep listening.

Repeat these directions until they start asking you for your advice.


Avoid giving your advice, or at least give them very little.

Next Step

Ask them for advice on an organization or cause you support and start listening again. Then you try it. I call it circular modeling. You learn from them, they learn from you. And the circle goes round and round.

What are you learning about giving from your children – young or older?


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