This post was written by Nick Pridemore, College Pastor, Bloomington, Indiana. You can also find him at Werdguys blogging on all things faith and fatherhood.
Last week we began talking about teaching kids biblical stewardship. I spent most of that post discussing the bigger picture of stewardship; spelling out why this is something we should be intentional about. So this week we will look more at the specifics. I’m sure if you ask 100 people how they teach there kids about money you will get at least 87.392 different answers. I’m not saying what is listed below is the absolute end all on the subject. But these are some things we do in my house. Feel free to use them. If you have other methods and areas of focus then, by all means, pursue those. The point is…do something. Don’t assume kids will learn how to handle money properly in school or from culture at large.
I’ll start by reiterating something I said last week. Start teaching them about money before they are old enough to care about money. Use toys as teaching tools. We can teach them to be generous and not overly fixated on things using what is dearest to them, toys. Every few months we go through my kids’ rooms and pick toys to give away to kids who don’t have toys. We don’t mandate that they pick certain toys, or any toys for that matter. We simply explain how blessed we are and then give them the opportunity to pick some toys to share with others. Each time we do this I’m amazed that my kids don’t pick the shabby, torn up toys in the back of the closet. When they think about sharing with others they want to share the good toys. Kids are a lot more compassionate than we assume. Give them a chance to prove it.
Once actual money starts coming into the picture we have a few rules that we establish with our kids. First of all, we treat allowance as a paycheck, not a freebie. If they want allowance this week then they need to accomplish their chores. No chores = no allowance. That may sound harsh, but isn’t that how the world works? One of the problems I see quite frequently in our culture is that too many people have grown up getting something for nothing, and as adults think they are still owed something for nothing. Now, of course, when it comes to grace and fellowship with God we absolutely get something for nothing. But everything else is to be worked for. I don’t feel I’m doing my kids any favors by giving them an unrealistic view of the world. In fact, I feel I am loving them better by setting them up for success once they leave the house.
Next, as soon as we hand them their allowance they get their 3 banks out. For every dollar in allowance they get they take 10 cents out and put it in their Jesus bank, which goes to church to give to missionaries. Then they take another 10 cents out and put in their savings bank, which…is saved up. It’s not rocket science. The other 80 cents of each dollar goes into their regular piggy bank. That money can be saved up or spent. It’s up to them. Again, I’m amazed at my kids’ restraint and ability to save their spending money for a toy they really want. I would expect them to spend their 80 cents per dollar every single week, but they don’t. Kids understand saving better than you would assume. They just need a chance to prove it.
Another thing we do, or at least attempt to do, is model joyful giving. My wife and I want to be careful to not make this an issue of heavy obligation or burden. When we have a chance to bless someone else, or give to a project that we feel is really important, we bring our kids into the discussion about it. We want them to see us being excited about giving. We want them to see that giving is more fulfilling and rewarding than hoarding. So we let them know what we are doing and say things like, “Can you believe we get to do this?! Isn’t it so great to get to help like that?” Be careful to teach your kids that this type of rejoicing is probably something best done just as a family since it could come across as bragging if done too publicly.
I think these tips are a great start to teaching kids about stewardship. However, the thing that will influence them the most is the day in day out philosophy of money they see from you. So it’s important that you make sure you are not modeling greed and selfishness 90% of the time, and then trying to sit down and teach them about the joys of biblical stewardship. As with every post I’ve shared so far the most important thing is that you live what you want to teach. So don’t rely on spending money to enjoy life or show love. Show them that love and enjoyment are readily available without having to buy things or go on expensive trips. Go for walks, wrestle, explore a forest, set an egg timer (do people still own egg timers?) and talk for a half hour without technology…the options are endless. Just show them what it looks like to not need more more more.