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A couple of years ago, 23-year-old Alonzo Johnson made the news for helping an elderly gentleman down an escalator. When asked about what happened, he said his mother raised him to be nice and kind.

"It's really the way I was brought up and raised," he said. Johnson went on to say that all the attention was very humbling.

The woman who witnessed the act posted it on social media. She ended her post by saying, "Whoever this young man is, YOUR FAMILY RAISED YOU RIGHT! THANK YOU! So, please look for the silver linings — as I was so fortunate to witness this evening."

Most parents would hope their children would do the same thing if they found themselves in that situation, but who wants to leave it to chance?

There's a good reason for teaching children how to be generous. Multiple studies found that generous people tend to be happier and are more likely to be healthier, friendlier, smarter and stronger.

Wondering exactly how to help your child learn to be generous? You can cultivate generosity by putting these practices in place all year long.

* Read "The Giving Tree" together. Shel Silverstein's picture book is about the relationship between an apple tree and a boy as he ages.

* Model generosity. Let your children see you being generous throughout the year. It doesn't have to be huge. Get extra canned goods while grocery shopping and take the children with you to drop them off. Walk together as a family for a worthy cause, or bake cookies and take them to your closest fire station or police precinct.

* Make it a part of your family's DNA. Talk about what generosity looks like. Help them see the need and the possibilities. Encourage them to help you make a family generosity plan.

* Have a giving jar. Once you have made your plan, let your children decorate a jar for collecting money throughout the year. Decide on a specific time when you will take the jar and be generous.

* Expose your children to worlds beyond their own. Take your children with you to volunteer in places where they can meet the needs of others. All it requires is the gift of your time. You don't have to have a lot of money to share your time.

* Host birthday parties for a cause. Many young people are asking for donations like dog food for the animal shelter, canned goods for a food bank or blankets for a homeless shelter instead of birthday presents.

* Make blessing bags. As a family, you can put together blessing bags for the homeless and include things like socks, snacks, washcloth or wipes, lotion, shampoo, a package of tissues, small bottle of hand sanitizer, conditioner, body wash, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant and a bottle of water. You might want to add other things as you see fit.

* Acknowledge when you see your children being generous. One way to encourage generosity is to call it out when you see it. Let your children know you noticed what they did. Ask them how it felt and what they learned from the experience.

Although this topic seems to get a lot of play during the holidays, learning to be generous is a year-round effort. Generous children often become generous adults who give back to their community. Help your child discover that generosity is a gift you give to others as well as yourself.

Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of family advocacy nonprofit First Things First. Email her at julieb@firstthings.org.

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Julie Baumgardner
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