Raising kids to have godly values about money is tough. Not only are parents battling an extremely materialistic society, but godly principles about money require a delicate balance.
For example, everything we have belongs to God and is a blessing from Him. (James 1:17) We also need to take good care of our blessings and give generously back to God through helping others and direct donations to God’s work. (II Corinthians 9:7) We need to work hard in our jobs. (Colossians 3:23) We shouldn’t be obsessed with money, especially to the point where it replaces God. (I Timothy 6:10) And on and on.
It seems like a lot to teach a kid who is just learning to tell the difference between a dime and a quarter! Yet, if your children don’t learn how to be good stewards of their money, they will suffer a lot of negative, real life consequences. Poor money management will also tempt them to reject giving money to God or to serve others, but to keep it for themselves and what they want instead.
There are some practical things you can do to help your children begin to find this godly balance about money.
- Keep your children informed about family finances in age appropriate ways. A two year old does not need to worry about having enough money to buy a new car. An elementary aged child needs to understand that large expenses need to be considered carefully. They need to begin to understand concepts like saving, avoiding debt, buying wisely etc. A teen can totally understand the concept that previous decisions and events can affect a person’s ability to purchase large ticket items when needed. The best way for your children to learn is to listen as you and your spouse work through financial issues. Take the time to explain why you are making the decisions you are as your children become old enough to understand. Isolating children from money decisions and issues sets them up for financial failure in the future.
- Allow your children to contribute to the family. Unless it is absolutely necessary, I do not advocate young children feeling responsible for earning the money to help support the family. I do, however, firmly believe they need to be involved from a very young age on the cost saving side of the equation. Let them help cut out coupons as soon as they can handle scissors well. Teach them to plan a shopping list by looking at ads and coupons. Encourage them to take good care of things so they last longer. Don’t let them become overly obsessive about saving money, but a little practice in frugality will help them later in those early adult years.
- Give your children an allowance that is less than they want. A lot of people are anti-allowance. Many parents do tend to give an allowance that is way too large to be educational. Keep the allowance small enough so your child has to find creative ways to finance special purchases. Our daughter from a very young age created her own “businesses” to earn the money she needed for large purchases. As a teen, she not only had great business skills, but was financially savvy. Chores, although expected, were not connected to her allowance. When she was very young, the jobs she did around the house for extra money were above and beyond what was normally expected. Unfortunately, she quickly learned neighbors and businesses paid better than we did, so her businesses quickly became focused on baby and house sitting!
- Teach your children to budget their allowance. Our daughter was expected to divide her allowance between God, college savings, gifts for family members and personal wants. She financed Christmas gifts for family members out of her own money for years. She developed an early awareness of saving for college and we had no need to pressure her to complete college scholarship applications. She was very aware of how our congregation spends its contributions and is concerned they are spent wisely. Even her personal spending has always been wise and her “frivolous” spending was always spent smartly. Now that she is a young adult, those skills have made her a pro at handling finances in comparison to many of her peers.
- Provide outside financial training if possible. Our daughter loved the Dave Ramsey videos for high school students. She enjoyed watching them and learned a lot. We also made sure she had checking and savings accounts so she understood how to balance a checkbook and calculate interest. She also studied taking AP macroeconomics and microeconomics. Although they weren’t her favorite classes, she learned a great deal about useful subjects like taxes, investing and exchange rates.
- Communicate clearly God’s principles on money. Reflect them in the way you spend the money God provides your family. Is the bulk of your money spent on luxuries for your family or do you use it to help others and spread the Gospel? Your children will reflect your priorities to a great extent. This is another area when time spent in the scriptures and actively discussing your values and principles can make a difference in the life of your child. Make sure you are practicing what you preach, though. Saying you want to focus on helping others and only giving $50 a year to charity while you drive a Rolls Royce is an inconsistent message and kids will quickly figure out your true priorities.
Taking the time and energy to teach your kids godly money and stewardship skills takes a lot of time and effort. They are critical skills for your kids to learn though if they are to be good stewards and reach their godly potential in using their money to help serve others and share their faith. If you struggle yourself, Dave Ramsey has some great materials to help. It’s worth the time and effort for everyone in your home to learn how to deal with money in godly ways.