Fact: As we minister to others through our local church, children notice that others have less (and more) than we do. It seems that in order to discuss what the Bible says about possessions, I have to acknowledge this fact.
- I want to teach them that we have a biblical responsibility to give to people who are poor. The ability to give is a blessing; it is also a weighty responsibility.
In order to teach them to this concept, we talk through some giving projects and why we’ve acted as we did. That necessitates some acknowledgment that we do in fact have more funds than some other people; for this reason, we can and should plan to give.
There is some tension in that knowledge of God’s material blessing.
- Children find their identity in how much things cost. We notice this when we occasionally overhear them bragging to their friends about the cost of purchases we’ve made (often missing the true cost by a mile, but not always). We’ve heard them make comments about how small someone’s house is. <blush>
- Some of this fascination with numbers is developmental. Children are trying to wrap their minds around number and measurement. At nearly the same age, each child of mine has become obsessed with the speed limit and whether I am obeying it. It’s not that they’ve suddenly become spirit-led about speed limits. They simply are aware of it, and it interest them. Likewise, wanting to know how much things cost, being impressed by the cost of a thing rather than its value, wanting to impress friends with a price tag seems to be highly related to a developmental stage. Just because an attitude is developmental doesn’t mean that it’s the right attitude to have; however, instead of horror at their obvious mercenary attitudes, I see the awareness of and interest in numbers as a valuable open window, when they are quite ready to receive instruction. They may not be nearly as receptive to molding in later years.
I do know that giving them some information is going to cause some awkward moments as they learn discretion. I see a benefit of teaching basic principles of stewardship even before they understand what they’re learning. Pretending everyone is the same and keeping all money discussions away from children seems to be an inadequate response.
- First, we are honest that for us, the reason we’re not purchasing something is that it’s not a wise use of money. Having a budget also allows us to say, we’ve not planned for that purchase, so if we buy it, we would have to put aside something else. I see from comments that some of you do the same thing. My reasoning is that, if they are adults and in a situation where they are suddenly in possession of a lump sum of money (like an income tax refund or inheritance), they don’t react by spending it all on all the frivolous things they’ve not allowed themselves because they couldn’t afford it.
- We’ve made family finances and cost of things to be family discussions only. We’ve said, “How much things cost is not a good discussion topic.” Talking about price isn’t something we brag about to our friends. We talk about why, a little. Sometimes we and our children forget, but we are attempting to be consistent. (Does this mean I shouldn’t talk about how much something cost if I purchased it well below its value? Not sure)
- We have chosen to be generally transparent, but not specifically transparent. With some giving opportunities, our children are necessarily involved. When their toys or clothes are being given away, we want them to know why. When visitors come, they understand that mommy plans to spend more on special treats. There’s a reason for this, too. At other times, they don’t know particulars. They see daddy putting a check in the offering plate, but they don’t know how much the check is for. They don’t even know about some projects.
- Our children know that we have money God has given us, and that we are thus responsible to use it wisely. We try to avoid specific dollar amounts, and when our children ask for them, we tell them that’s not information that they need.
- Lee and I have discussed finances in front of, but not with, our children. We try to avoid cost. We’re moving soon, and it’s been a challenge to talk about buying a house, and other expenses and still be discreet about dollar amounts. Still, it’s good for the children to know that we are praying for wisdom in how we use our money (like buying a house), that mom and dad desire a house that will enable us to serve God, and that we’re trusting God to help us. Hopefully our conversations have communicated that and not anxiety.
What do you share with your children about finances and why? What don’t you share?