My children approach money in very different ways. To one, money is a means of getting more toys. This child is driven to earn more and get more, all for the purpose of accumulating a new and tangible item.
To my other child, money is an opportunity. This child is a natural giver. After walking into my office and handing me two dollar bills, this child told me to send it to the kids in Africa. On another occasion, this one has looked in a wallet and said it has too much money. A comment only to be followed by giving me a dollar with instructions to spend it on something for myself. Yes, for real.
Every kid is different. And while one of my kids is more focused on toys than Africa, there are still ways to guide that young heart and raise a cheerful giver. But it starts with persistence, teaching and opportunity, and the belief that even an unnatural giver can grow to be generous and others-focused.
8 Ways to Raise a Cheerful Giver
1. Start Young.
The younger you start teaching your children about giving, the easier it will be for them as they age. Think about tithing. How much harder is it to start tithing as an adult than if one had been raised with the concept and been doing it all along?
2. Start Small.
Don’t ask your children to give everything right off the bat. Set little goals. Give a portion of an earning. Work towards small and attainable gifts and donations.
3. Give your children something to relate to with a story, movie or photos.
We recently bought 3 bed nets for a family in Africa to help with protection from malaria. Had I asked the kids out of the blue to start saving money toward bed nets, they may have been somewhat disinterested in this particular item. After all, my kids sleep in the air-conditioning, free from any concern of malaria.
But we had just watched the movie, Born Free. It is the true story of a couple that after rescuing and raising a lioness cub set her free into the wild with success. (Moms, you will probably cry, but your kids will like it. Did I mention that the cub’s name is Elsa?)
In the movie, George becomes ill with malaria. My kids saw the scenes of him tossing in bed in pain and his wife’s concern for his life. That was the point of reference. When I asked the kids if they wanted to save up and buy the bed nets to protect a family from malaria, they immediately remembered George. They understood malaria and were eager to help.
4. Learn Bible verses together on giving.
“Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which he has given you.” Deuteronomy 16:17
“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” Proverbs 3:27
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-7
5. Let your children be involved in the decision of what cause to support or what item to buy.
If you are buying for a family in need or a drive like Operation Shoebox, let your children help pick out items in the store. Perhaps you have several local opportunities you can share with your children and they can be involved in the decision process. Last year, we looked through a gift catalog from World Vision and my children decided to save for ducks. The “life-changing animal” section can be particular interesting to young children.
6. Consider matching or contributing to their goal.
If my children are working on saving or earning money towards a particular and worthy cause, I am more than happy to help them and give to or match their earnings. Not only does it get help to the recipient faster, but I can (within reason) keep up the kids’ motivation as we make headway in their goal.
7. Help them explore ways to earn money.
In what ways can your kids earn money? Give suggestions and ideas. Sell lemonade. Do chores for Grandma and Grandpa. If they learn extra Bible verses, can they earn coins? Give your kids extra chores at home.
Many of our household chores like laundry, emptying the dishwasher and cleaning their room and bathroom are not paid, but we do pay for extra chores like filing, weeding or cleaning my bathroom. Scour the house for the things you have been putting off and hire them to do the chore.
8. Teach by Example.
Not that we’re bragging here, but when you give, take the appropriate opportunity to make it known to your children. Let them see you giving. Involve them in giving as a family. Be the example you desire them to be.
* * If your family is interested in supporting a child in poverty, contact World Vision or Compassion International. We support a little boy in Peru who is the same age as my son. It is an amazing opportunity to help a child and teach your children to bless others.