What parent hasn’t heard those words? A red-faced child plants both feet firmly, sticks out the lower lip, and what can charitably be called a “hissy fit” erupts. Ownership is at stake!
As children we are not natural givers. We see something we like, and we grab it. Then we chew on it. Our parents tell us not to chew on it because it may be dangerous or the item belongs to someone who doesn’t appreciate toddler spit. Gradually, somewhat reluctantly, we learn to keep our hands to ourselves and ask for something before grabbing it.
Time passes. Siblings, cousins, and schoolmates enter the picture. These people want our stuff sometimes, and we aren’t always ready to share. Why should a child share something that’s “MINE!”?
It’s not ours
Children don’t own stuff. From a legal perspective, only adults own stuff. Certainly, we give our children toys, clothing, food, a warm bed to sleep in, but nothing is “theirs” except by the grace we parents extend to them. They cannot provide these things for themselves, so any ownership a child attempts to claim comes with a reminder, “and where did that come from?”
As Christian parents, my wife and I believe all our financial resources come from God our Father, and we are caretakers of his blessings. The old English word “stewardship” shows us the things we have are just passing through our hands to be used, enjoyed, and shared. We demonstrate this belief to our kids when we let them participate in our sharing.
Teaching to share begins with sharing
A wise parent said, “With children, more is caught than taught.” Kids watch us. They imitate us. If we smile at a baby, the baby smiles back. If we yell, they yell. If we spend all evening on our electronic devices, we shouldn’t be surprised when they ignore us and hang out on social media. Likewise, the way we teach our kids to share is to let them see how we share.
My 9-year-olds sons and 5-year-old daughter help make sharing decisions in the monthly family budgeting process. There are two line items on our budget for giving: our local church and local charities. Each month when it’s time to review the budget, we ask our kids about whom they think we should help. There are several charities we support regularly, and the kids understand we cannot give to each group as much as we would like. We have to choose where to give this month and what has to wait until next month. Sometimes we make choices that mean we don’t get to do something we’d like to do so someone else can have what they need. It’s a powerful day when your child says, “We don’t need to go see that movie. I think more kids need shoes.”
Our kids still believe in Santa, but they also know “extra” gifts come from us. This year we chose an ornament from our church’s angel tree for a boy named Seth. Seth is 9 years old, the same age as my sons. Unfortunately, there is no one in his family to give those “extra” gifts. I took my boys out shopping one weekend and they helped pick out a coat, gloves, a warm hat, and snow boots, and also five nice toys so that Seth can have what he needs and some of what he wants for Christmas. My boys took this task very seriously, strolling up and down the aisles and picking clothing and toys out. We set a budget and stuck to it, taking care of the clothing needs first, then we moved on to the toys. Kids have to know resources are finite: parents aren’t money trees. This wisdom doesn’t come from reading an article or a hearing a one-time lecture. It comes from repeated experience, much like an athlete who trains many hours to perfect a single skill. I believe my sons showed this wisdom because we taught them the basics of giving each month.
Wrapping up an article and a gift
Do you want your children to be generous? Let them see you being generous often! Do you want your children to be giving? Involve them in your giving regularly. Merry Christmas!
Sid Whiting is the father of three and the husband of one. He lives with his wife Gail and their children in Springfield, Missouri. He also enjoys real estate investing, serving in the 135th Army Band as a percussionist and bass guitarist, and plays in the Praise Band "Soul Purpose" and the "Hallelujah Bells" hand bell choir. He can be reached for comment or question at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/WiseSteward).
A wise man once told me, “…what you practice in moderation, your children will excuse in excess.”
That’s a profound declaration, and if we conduct an honest assessment, we will find that it is an unswerving truth. Yet, when you hear a statement like that, it typically leans to the negative. For instance, Dad slips and cusses in front of the kids, just one time, and soon the teenage son justifies a constant stream of profanity.
But, what about the positives?
It’s no shocking revelation that as dads, we will slip-up, and quite often, in front of our kids. But, they are not just observing the failures, they also are witnessing the good. When they see you consistently take the shopping cart back, when you open the door for an elderly person, when you thank a soldier for his or her service, when they see you live, “I love you” to your spouse…it makes an impact.
When my boys were young, our family volunteered to serve Thanksgiving meals to those who were homeless, or simply without family, for the holiday. My wife and I helped set out chairs, clean tables, run food to and from the kitchen, and chatted with those we were serving. Our sons carried desserts to the seated guests of honor and carted trash to the bins. At one point, we couldn’t find our youngest son. Of our three children, he was the busiest, and quite often the orneriest. When household chores, or homework beckoned, he was the first to disappear. I immediately caught myself thinking, “That kid. He has no desire to help or serve others. He’s all about himself.”
After consulting with my wife, we went opposite directions in the large dining hall, searching for our six-year-old, wayward charge. Imagine my surprise, and conviction, when I spied him . . . sitting across from an elderly gentleman, laughing and talking a mile a minute. The old man’s eyes gleamed, and I was thankful that in a sea of parenting failures, I was witnessing a win. Even if it was small. Even if it was just for a moment.
I am not a perfect example. I can see the worst and the best of myself in my now-grown sons. But, one thing that is consistently remarked of them, is that they all are servants; two of them serving in the military and our oldest in ministry. And when any of us care, love and serve others, it seems to more than balance out our flaws.
I am reminded of the following: “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” I Peter 4:8.
In the very real and rewarding struggle we call “parenting,” especially “DAD” parenting, I am immensely grateful for the “coverage.” As I am still challenged to serve, may you be, as well. Don’t underestimate your example because your kids will benefit from your service. They are watching. Give them something positive to emulate. You won’t always be perfect, but you can strive to be steady.
Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at email@example.com
Will you help me? I want to raise generous children -- and not just at Christmas. I want to raise children who think more of others than of themselves all the time and all year long. I want to raise children who are not selfish or entitled. I want to raise children who pitch in and help out, who volunteer when asked – and even when they are not asked. I want to raise generous children. And not just at Christmas.
When we lived in Cape Girardeau, MO we had an unfinished basement. I mentioned to a guy I knew that I wanted to finish the basement. I said it in passing. One week later there were eight good old boys from Southeast Missouri tromping down the side yard of our house to the basement door. They had hammers in hand, tool belts, and tape measures. They had lips bursting with chewing tobacco and a steely look of determination. These men were here to help. They stormed through the door like men on a mission. It’s what men do.
Indeed. Men help men. Men help men build basements. Men help men build their families. It’s what men do.
The basement turned out beautiful. These men took pride in their work and teaching me to do what I didn’t know how to do. They mentored me. They invested in me. They reminded me that the basement I was building was for my family.
I hate chewing tobacco. I haven’t tried it since. But I love those men. They taught me about carpentry – something I knew nothing about. I didn’t know what I was doing and they didn’t care. They let me get in the way. They were there to help. They were generous.
Every one of us needs help. Every one of us needs the kind generosity of someone else pitching in and helping out. I need help. You need help, too. It’s not easy finishing a basement. It’s not easy being a Dad, either. Both are easier when we do it together.
We may not always know what we are doing. I don’t. I’m not a very good carpenter and I am not always a very good Dad either. I’m sometimes a little hard hearted and a little thinned skinned. I’m not always so generous. I don’t always put the needs of others before my own. Sometimes I’m just looking out for me. This is why I need you. This is why we need each other. I need someone to say, Hammer and Nails or not, this is for our families.
So make it a point to make a difference. You are a Dad. You are a GREAT DAD. I learn from you – and our children are learning from all of us. Put the needs of others before your own. Pitch in and help out – even without being asked. Be a generous Dad and your children will be generous like you.
Jeff Sippy, a Dad-In-Training, is the father of three young men and the husband of Cindy. He enjoys sailing every chance that he gets. He is the senior pastor at Redeemer Lutheran in Springfield, MO and can be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org