The world is much more aggressive than we are in teaching our children about money. Our girls don’t watch a lot of TV, but we are grateful for our DVR just so we can fast forward through commercials when they do watch a show. The marketing that goes into those commercials is as slick as they come. Marketers are also using children’s websites and parents’ smart phones to reach small children. It’s estimated that in 2010, American children influenced $1.2 trillion of family spending; from food to clothing and everything in between. It’s a huge market that companies want to take advantage of in any way possible.
As parents, my husband and I strive to be vigilant in teaching our children about money. We don’t want our girls to fall prey to the world’s materialism (or make the money mistakes we did early in our marriage) and living in America makes it a big job. Our children are going to learn what’s important by what they see us value. The Bible has 2,350 verses about money; twice as many as faith and prayer combined. Clearly this is a topic that is important to God and He wants us to listen and apply this to our lives. Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” I know when people in the church hear this verse they often think of instilling love, joy, patience and self-control; but rarely do we think of instilling wisdom about money in our kids.
When our 5-year-old started learning to read this year we set up a system to pay her for reading books because we wanted to encourage her to read every day. The rules are easy: we pay one penny per page read in a book and you can only get credit for reading a book one time. Each book read fills its own square on the reading chart and when ten squares are filled, she gets paid. We knew that this was going to be very effective in encouraging her to read, but the more important thing we were focused on was how we could use this to train her about the value of money. She has three containers for any of her earnings: saving, giving and spending. When she gets paid for her reading or little jobs we give her she, immediately has to split the money up and put it in the proper place. 10% goes to saving, 10% to giving and the remaining 80% goes into what she can spend.
Spending, saving and giving containers.
We are letting her use the spending on whatever she wants and as a parent it’s hard for me to stop myself from trying to talk her out of something I know she will lose interest in or isn’t really worth it. But when she buys something and then finds it’s not as great as she thought, it’s a great lesson on making wise choices. We have also run into times when she really wants something, but doesn’t have the money because she spent it all on something else because she was impatient to spend it. That has opened up really good discussions about the consequences of our actions. Learning the difference between a want and a need is a huge gift that you can give to your children. We strive to teach that to our girls now so that they make wise money decisions later.
The most important thing that we can teach our children related to money is about giving. Giving is a habit that must be cultivated in children because their sin nature (and ours) wants the selfish and greedy side to be fed constantly. Teaching them about giving is a lesson in the truth that all we have is given from God, and He has called us to care for others. In Scripture we are repeatedly told to care for orphans and widows, to help those in their distress and to further the kingdom of God. This can look different for each family as you give to the things that are near and dear to your heart. We have kids that we sponsor through World Vision and we have our girls draw pictures and as they get bigger they will write letters. But they know that we are using our money that we could use for ourselves to care for those who are less fortunate. Even though they may be too little to comprehend it when we tell them about the organizations we give to and why, it’s still good for them to hear as little children. It’s good for our girls to hear about all the ways that our church reaches out to the community and that our giving helps to pay for that.
Earlier in the year when our church did a fundraiser for a local crisis pregnancy center our 5-year-old asked us why we were doing it and what the money would be used for. We explained to her that sometimes women get pregnant and they don’t know what to do and they are scared about how they can take care of their baby. So the money would buy diapers, formula and other things that babies need. A few days later she came down the stairs with all of the money she had been saving for herself and was adamant that it all be given “to help the mommies that can’t take care of their babies.” It brought me to tears to see the compassion she had to use her money for others. Recently she asked me if I remembered that she gave that money away to help people and I said I did. Then she said, “And you know what? I earned more money and I still got to buy a toy.” What a gift the Lord gave me that day. God has given to us abundantly to care for our children and we strive to show them that we must use our gifts from God to help others.
Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”