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Raising Generous Children

By Pastor Tom Anderson

Proverbs 22:6–”Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it

Teaching generosity is different from teaching hygiene or manners or baseball. Generosity is not a behavior, a practice or a skill. It’s a matter of the heart. The first step for parents in raising generous children is to realize this is not about behavior management i.e. getting them to do certain things with their money. It’s about shaping their hearts. I specifically want to focus on preschool to 5th grade.

Let’s start with a simple kid-friendly money management idea. Get three empty peanut butter jars. Label them: Give, Save and Live. Have them divide their money up into these three jars. This works best when you use cash: coins and bills. Kids do best when they can visually see and touch what money is. They get the idea that money has several different purposes, and the seed is planted that some money is to be directed outside of ourselves.

In daily life we come across multiple opportunities to give–a fundraiser at school, a jar in a restaurant or a drive for new equipment at the petting zoo. In church there are opportunities as well: an appeal for Operation Christmas Child or an offering for school children in Mexico. Kids will be captivated by some of these projects and when they are, ask them if they’d like to give. Refrain from judging the projects that energize your kids. Just let them respond to what they are passionate about. If they want to give all their cash to save salamanders at the local nature center, encourage them in doing so. You’re trying to shape their hearts, not modify their behavior.

Instead, talk about the impact their giving is having. Get them thinking about what they are helping to make happen. The good feelings that come from making a difference for a cause outside themselves is what you are trying to encourage. As they think about it, their hearts are going to remember the feelings that come with giving. The heart will grow larger as a result.

Take advantage of Holiday giving opportunities. Operation Christmas Child is a fantastic avenue for the whole family to be involved packing shoe boxes and talking about their impact. There is also the Christmas Eve offering for The Power Company Kids Club. These are high-impact ministries that kids can see and relate to. Or think of providing flowers at Easter, gifts to the elderly on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.

Teach them to give in ways that don’t involve money. Planting flags in the cemetery on Veterans' Day; raking a neighbor’s leaves or picking up trash on Earth Day are all ways of giving time and service to others. It’s also a great way to have quality family time together.

Harness the power of your example. In these days of a cashless society where few write checks, spending has become invisible. The only way to influence your children with your example is to talk about it. Bring it up in conversation at the dinner table or in your home. “Honey, I see the second mile offering this Sunday is for Community Sharing. What do you think about giving $50 towards it?” The kids have ears. The impact of this conversation will not be lost on them. If you are passionate about generosity, your children will see it. The best influence on their little hearts is found in showing them the size of your own heart.


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