• Katie Zurawski

Why I Want My Kid to be the One that puts away the Stray Shopping Cart – Teaching Children Int

I think most parents would agree that we kind of bumble through parenthood doing the best we can.  Yes, we want our kids to be happy and successful and overall decent human beings but many of us don’t necessarily think about how we get them there.

How do we know that we are raising them right?  That they will grow up in this crazy world with kindness, love and generosity in their heart?  I finally discovered what would be my benchmark.  I had one of those ah-ha moments two days ago… at Target nonetheless.


I was walking into the store late one night for a much needed break from my kids (oh, and I needed milk or something).  There was a shopping cart literally in the middle of a driving lane.  I avoided that lane but after I parked went and grabbed the cart to use.  It was rainy out and the cart was wet but I’d rather have a slightly damp cart I needed to push inside than someone getting their car hit.

Before I could get to the cart, I noticed a couple getting into their car, maybe in their mid-twenties.  The cart was literally right in their path to leave.  Rather than take the time to put it away, they carefully maneuvered their car around the cart.  Now I always give people the benefit of the doubt… maybe they were late for work or she was going into labor and that’s why they were in a rush.  But as I went to grab the cart, I decided right then and there that I want my kid to be the one that puts away the stray shopping cart.  Not the person that tries to avoid it and leave it for someone else to take of.


Are you a River or a Reservoir?

I recently read a book entitled “How Successful People Grow” by John C. Maxwell.  In the book, the author poses a question to the reader: “Are you a river or a reservoir?” A reservoir seeks to capture the water and save it,  keeping it all inside.  It doesn’t allow it’s bounty to flow freely but rather “reserves” what it needs.  On the other hand, a river allows the water to flow in and out freely.  Using what it needs at the time and allowing the rest to be sent along for others.  It doesn’t hoard more than it can use any given time.

The river and reservoir metaphor reminds me of an important value I want to instill in my children… the belief that our world is a world of abundance. There is enough money, things, love, resources, food, ideas for everyone.  I don’t want them to feel like they will never have enough. I want them to experience the joy of contentment.  Freely we receive and freely we should give.

Those who approach life from a basis of scarcity try to grasp tightly to anything and everything. They are in constant fear of the future rather than having a sense that “everything will turn out alright”.  Like a reservoir, they keep their treasures to themselves (their time, their energy, their talents) not wanting to deplete their “stockpile”.

How a Mindset of Abundance Helps Our Children be Giving to Others

When we live from a mindset of abundance, we are more able to give to others.  And it’s not just in tangible ways.  Yes, we can donate our clothing or our toys and other excesses.  But we can also give of our time.  Putting away the stray shopping cart.  Going to a park and collecting litter.  Spending time with the elderly at a nursing home.  And, more importantly, we can also share our love.  An encouraging word to a sad friend. Sticking up for someone getting bullied at school.  Just being nice to others (including their siblings).  These are all important moral skills to learn.  It’s like putting on an armor of integrity.

As They Watch, So They Learn

Where do we begin instilling these values into our children? How to we teach them that this world is one of abundance?  We could try sitting them down and going on a long diatribe about how God made enough for everyone or how we should be kind and generous to others. Rarely though do these talks have as much of an impact as we think.


How to truly begin changing our children’s hearts is by leading through example.  We must demonstrate everyday how to live with integrity.  It starts with putting away the lonely cart at the back of the parking lot.  It could be letting the cashier know they gave you too much change.  Or dropping off your own clothes at a donation center.  It may be saying “yes” to a friend in need or helping a neighbor move a big piece of furniture.

It’s these small, everyday moments that make the most difference.  And they have a lasting effect on our children’s impressionable minds.  So much so that I still remember a moment with my own father than happened over 30 years ago.  We were standing in line at a grocery store… a long line.  As people ahead and behind us complained about the wait, my dad stood patiently and quietly.  When we were next to up, rather than being gruff and annoyed with the slow cashier, he was kind and empathetic to her stressful situation.  I often think back to that moment when I am in a hurry and things are taking way too long.  Rather than take on a sour attitude, I should give kindness and love to each person I meet no matter the circumstance. And my children will learn from my actions.

So how do we teach out children to wear an armor of integrity?  By putting away the shopping cart.  By humbling yourself enough to know that the universe doesn’t revolve around you or even around your kids.  By knowing that there is enough to go around for everyone, always.

Need more ideas on how to teach your children integrity?  Try one of these 12 ideas:

  1. Make cards for soldiers oversees or other children in hospitals.  Here are two organizations to check out: Cards for Hospitalized Kids and A Million Thanks.

  2. Volunteer at a local nursing home. You can individually visit with residents or do a community game night with the Wii and other fun games.

  3. On Earth Day, make a new tradition of picking up litter at your local park.

  4. Do a family volunteer day through an organization like Feed My Starving Children (this is a great one for kids).

  5. Collect pet supplies for a animal shelter or food for a food pantry during a big event like a birthday party.

  6. Offer to walk your neighbor’s dog while they are on vacation.

  7. If your child breaks a friend’s toy have them replace it with their own money.

  8. When shopping, pick up the item on the floor and put it back on the shelf rather than just ignoring it.

  9. Leftover ride tickets at an amusement park? Gift them to a stranger on your way out.

  10. Always throw away your own litter.  No garbage?  Hang on to it until you get home.

  11. Treat library books you borrow with care.  Someone else will be reading them soon!

  12. Join a service organization at school such as K-Kids, the Kiwanis Kids program.

It is never too early to too late to being instilling in your children integrity. Lead by example and their hearts will follow.


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#gratitude #integrity #parenting

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