Money. It’s more than just teaching math and counting. It has a societal value and it represents responsibility and generosity and worth. How do we best use it to build godly character in our children?
We look at money the same way we view everything else…..through the vision we have for our family. Our goal is to teach them to be godly, selfless, strong and responsible. Also we want to prepare them for life on their own. They need to know how to manage money. How to make it serve you and not become a slave to it.
Once our children are of an age when they need money for things, we begin to give them opportunities to earn. We don’t give them an allowance. They get money by working for it (of course, they occasionally get money as a gift for birthday or Christmas).
How we decide which jobs are money makers is by looking at our responsibilities as members of a family. For example, we wouldn’t pay a child to make their bed or sweep the floor. These are jobs that we do to keep our home clean and orderly and we must all do our part. No one should get paid to wash the dishes. It is a part of the work of living together and keeping the house clean. It doesn’t matter if they do someone else’s job for them, they still don’t get paid.
Also, we would never pay for serving others. Faith and Jacob both helped me a lot this past week on the wedding of our friend’s son. It was hard work and a sacrifice for us all, but I would not reward them with money. It sends the wrong message…..that you deserve a reward for service. We want our children to see serving others and sacrificing as a blessing that has its own reward.
We do have a list of jobs that are worth money: washing the car, weeding the flower beds, vacuuming the pool, cleaning out the garage, etc. These jobs are not necessary to the every day operation of the home and would be considered “extra.” I pay the girls that help me in Shop 24, James pays the kids when they work in his office, trimming trees, painting the fence, you get the picture.
It is easy for me to come up with a paying job if someone is saving money for something. Also, occasionally they get paying opportunities outside of the home. A relative might pay them to help build a fence or a neighbor pays them to mow her lawn.
This brings me to my next point: once they have money we must teach them what to do with it.
Many people have a formula: 10% to the church, 50% savings, whatever. We have never done that. We talk about it in school and teach them the purpose of money and what the Bible has to say about it. We encourage them to save and to give and are very clear with them about what they need money for. Beyond that, they can do pretty much what they want with it (within reason, of course). If they spend it on silly things we will set up opportunities to learn the hard way that they should make better choices.
For example, if we go see a movie, anyone over 10 years old has to pay for their own ticket and any snack they want. If you spent all of your money and you can’t afford the movie ticket, you miss going with everyone else. It’s a hard lesson. But I would never, ever lend them money for a movie. It’s not going to hurt them to miss it.
We might go to Sonic for a drink or ice cream and they have to buy their own. If they don’t have any money, they miss out. It teaches them to save. If they lose something, like a shoe or a jacket, they have to pay to replace it. There was a time a few years ago when one of our kids didn’t take care to put his shoes where they belonged. He eventually lost one and he went without tennis shoes until he earned enough money to buy more. He missed a lot of outside activities during that time. It was a good lesson to take care of what you have and be sure you have a little money set aside in case you need it. You can be sure he took good care of the shoes he had to work for.
The older they are the more they are expected to pay for until by the time they are 18 they have to buy their own clothes, gifts for friends, books, music, etc. We make the gradual transition from buying everything for them to their being independent. I’d start small, like encourage them to work to earn money to buy a birthday gift for a sibling. Then maybe have them save for a book that they want and eventually they are buying most of their extra needs.
Even though they can generally make their own buying decisions, we do have the rule that they have to wait. If one of the boys wants to buy himself a Lego set, he must shop for it with me and find the best price, then wait a few weeks and be sure that is how he wants to spend his money. If, at that point, he still wants to use his money that way, I take him to the store where he has to get it, take it to the checkout and pay for it himself. He must answer the cashier’s questions, pay attention to the total, count the change, have the whole experience.
Then he would have to wait a while before buying himself anything else. We watch their heart and help them guard against selfishness. I want to be very clear, we would never take their money away from them. We want them to have the security that it safely belongs to them. With this ownership comes responsibility. Put it in a safe place, count it often, let me know if you are taking any money with you somewhere, know how to handle it in public, save what you will need for the future, give to others.
Once they are in their later teens we have them go through Dave Ramsey‘s Financial Peace seminar. This helps them learn details such as insurance, debt, planning for the future.
Our main goal with money is to teach them not to love it, but to use it for their good (not just their pleasure). Like anything, they must not use it selfishly, but be generous, responsible and wise. It is a wonderful tool for checking your child’s heart. If you see them managing their money badly, you can be sure they have issues that need to be worked on. These are some tips for using money to teach lessons:
1. If a child uses their money only for themselves, they are selfish. I would have them work really hard for very little pay, then tell them they have to use that pay to buy something for someone else. Perhaps a brother they need to mend a relationship with or a grandparent that has been overly generous.
2. If a child whines about not getting paid enough then they are showing a “welfare” mentality. I would have them work for free for a day (preferably helping an elderly neighbor or doing a hard, unpleasant job). Feed them well, like you would any workman, but don’t allow them to whine. For every complaint they owe you an extra 15 minutes of work.
3. If a child begs for things at the store, they don’t appreciate what they have. First of all, I would never buy them what they are asking for. Then I would take them home and choose 3 things from their room (YOU choose, not them) for them to give away. Not put on a shelf, not take away for a while, GIVE away. The less they have, the more they will appreciate their things.
4. If a child steals, they are a thief and a fool. You must set them on the right path immediately. First have them repay what they took by working it off. They must pay it back plus extra. Second, they would be stripped of all entertainment for a time (and other things depending on the situation). Third and most important, they must confess what they did to the person they took it from and ask how they can make it right. This is a breach of trust and you absolutely cannot have that in a healthy family.
5. If your child has spent money they don’t have (like building up a phone bill they can’t pay) then you have a great opportunity to teach them what it means, “The borrower is slave to the lender” Proverbs 22:7. Most of us know firsthand how miserable it is to owe money to someone. This is a great way for your children to learn it from someone that loves them.
6. If you ask a child to help you with a project and they ask you how much they will get paid, they are ungrateful. I would not only have them do the requested task, but I would have them do all of my work for a day or two. If they are too young for that, they can shadow me and do as much as possible. They need to see how much work you really do that no one pays you for.
These are just a few examples of ways money can be used to build godly character. Thinking of it as a tool instead of a burden or a right can make it easier to know how to handle issues that come up.