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!