This post is a result of a discussion about destructiveness. I made the statement that young children do not by and large understand the value of property. This statement was challenged, so I’ve been reevaluating what I think.
I still stand by my statement, with a qualifier that perhaps my own children uniquely do not understand the value of property. But it seems to me that a child’s understanding of the value of things is a result both of a parents modeling, and a result of direct teaching.
We show children what we value by how much time we spend with certain “things,” how we take care of property, and how we respond when our belongings are damaged or lost. There’s a balance to be achieved: wise stewardship without greed, having a giving heart without giving pearls to pigs.
Here are the questions I’ve been thinking of. Questions must suffice, as I have a crying baby, two hungry children, and company coming for music class in two hours. Perhaps others will add to the discussion.
- When do I give?
- How do I decide where to give?
- Do I involve my children in giving?
- Do I express appreciation (though thank-you notes) when others give to me?
- Do I spend enough time interacting with people, with the local body of believers, or do I retreat into my own world whenever possible?
- What do I do and say when somebody damages something I own?
- What do I do and say when my children damage their own property?
- What do I do and say when my children damage my property, or the property of others?
- How should my responses change as a child gets older?
Barbara H. says
I remember years ago seeing a video of Dr. Fremont speaking about raising children, and one of his points was to raise children to be constructive and not destructive. I hadn’t thought of it in those terms, but something in me resonated with that.
On the other hand, once I was watching some secular show about conflict between parents and kids, and one child said that his father’s getting after him about jumping on the furniture made him feel the furniture was more important than him. Though his thinking is a little skewed there, it is possible to be overly materialistic about our “stuff” or correct in too harsh a way that a child might get that idea.
To me the key is stewardship — the idea that our things don’t really belong to us but to God and He wants us to take care of them.
I agree that stewardship is the key principle here. I hadn’t thought of that before; I always just have thought “we don’t do that around here.” So this is a new line of thinking for me. I suppose how we correct (like the dad and the couch) is going to make a difference in how we communicate the importance of “things.” I bet there’s more to that story than just the couch, though.
Vivian Butts says
I can’t help but think of the verse that tells us to esteem others better than ourselves as it relates to this topic. When instructing my own children I teach them that this includes others property. When things get broken or destroyed because a rule has been broken, that would hold a consequence, however if it is truly an accident I try to remember that I too am accident prone and extend mercy. I think if we harm someone else’s property we should offer to replace it and when we borrow something we should return it in the condition we borrowed it in at least, and if possible better condition. These are things I try to teach my children and the children within my direct influence.