Jump to content

Recommended Posts

As the holidays roll around, I am ever more mindful of the challenge of raising children to be thankful in a bountiful society. My boys have an embarassing array of toys and clothing and advantages in life. They have never known what it is to go to bed hungry. While our roof does leak lately, they've never been without one. They have plenty of school clothes, Sunday clothes, and play clothes, too. They have two fully-stocked homes, in a community in which a horrifying number of children have none. (I was listening to the KLOVE radio fundraising drive the other day, and heard that the average age of a homeless person in America is... nine years old! How can this be?!)

I talk to my children about the importance of being mindful of their blessings. I take them with me to charity work projects and events that "expose" them to causes for the less fortunate. They participate in the giving of offering at church, and we put change in the pot whenever we pass a Salvation Army bellringer, on our way in or out of stores. But the truth is, we're raising children in a culture in which the overwhelming societal message is that it's all about "getting more" to get ahead. And many of our hallowed holiday traditions (loading dinner plates at the Thanksgiving table, telling Santa what more they want, being good to avoid the stocking full of coal, and whatnot) play into it.

I'm wondering what other parents out there are doing to help counteract this?

Link to post
Share on other sites


I was wondering some of the same things yesterday when I passed by the Salvation Army bellringer with Hendrick. Unfortunately, I literally didn't have a dime to my name at the time. If I had, I was thinking how nice it would have been to have him give the money to begin teaching him about giving. I'm sure there will be other opportunities, and I'll take advantage of them to help our boy learn some good lessons about "the reason for the season."

In church last Sunday, Hendrick participated in bringing down our church's offering for Operation Shoebox, which is run out of Samaritan's Purse. So we're trying.

Frankly, this is a major concern for us. We live in an incredibly affluent area. We're surrounded by homes that go for $1 million or more. Kids have everything from designer clothes to expensive foreign-made cars.

Nina was appalled recently when she found out that one of the richest towns in our area was soliciting donations for its fire department so it could buy toys for kids. You might say, "how nice." But the problem was that these toys were to be given to the kids in town, nearly all of whom live in houses by the beach which go for several million dollars. So rich people were giving money so that their own children could get another gift. Huh?

How can we teach our children about humility, charity and true worth in such an environment?

We really want to stress the importance of family and faith, but we could certainly use some tips from others, too.

Thanks in advance for all of your wisdom!


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is certainly a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I have been criticized for not buying Makenzie more stuff. She really doesn't have many toys. She has plenty of clothes, but she is nearly out by the end of the week (which is fine with me). But I would rather fall too far the opposite of spoiling than over the other way (if that makes sense).

We were very poor growing up. Toys and things were only purchased for holidays. We didn't get something every time we went to Wal-Mart. I don't think Makenzie needs that either. She doesn't have many toys, but she mostly plays with "real" stuff anyway. She has a ball unloading all the boxes out of my pantry. She likes pulling out all our mixing bowls and stacking them (and re-stacking them :rolleyes: ). Her Christmas and birthdays are big now because that is really the only time she gets toys.

As she gets older, I want her to know the value of things in her life. It's not her stuff that will mean a lot, it's her relationships with people and the difference she makes in her world. I want to keep her involved in helping others all year round, not just Christmas. Our church takes several mission trips each year to disadvantaged areas (Mexico, Africa, Ukraine, and the Gulf Coast recently). We plan on taking Makenzie on those when she is old enough.

As she gets older, I intend for her holidays to be less and less about her, and more and more about others. I plan on letting her save money all year to buy special gifts for needy children. I LOVE shopping for disadvantaged children, and I hope to pass on that joy to her. Using her own money will give her ownership of it.

I sound tougher than I am. Makenzie has plenty BELIEVE me. However, she does not have the excess that some of our peers provide their children. I don't fault them for that, I just make a different choice. I would rather spend my money traveling to see family & friends and helping others than having a home full of toys.

Great discussion Elizabeth!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Tina, I agree. We want Arianna and Nichole to appreciate what they have and take care of things. I have friends whose children make it a game to see how short a life they can give something...and then beg for a new one when they do break/lose it.

A couple of years ago the kids wanted Ipods. They were going to get the nice big video ones (at 10 years of age). I talked my friend out of it as I reminded her that if they are able to download videos, she no longer has any say-so in what they watch (you should have seen some of the songs that were downloaded!!!). Well, the Ipod was gone in about 2 weeks, so it would have been some big bucks out the window.

I was raised to appreciate what I had (which wasn't much, but I took care of it). I want my children to appreciate it as well. I take care of my home, so I hope that they will learn some by example.

We have sponsored children in "needy" countries for the past 10 years or so. I hope that we are able to share that with the girls as well as in more hands-on ways.

Link to post
Share on other sites

And the older they get, the harder it gets. At least that's what I'm discovering. Joshua doesn't want a lot of stuff...just expensive stuff!! X-box 360, a real NFL jersey, etc. It doesn't help that my husband and I have different views on buying our kids gifts for Christmas. To me, less is more! But he loves to give (never mind that he wants an X-box 360 too!). I'm really trying hard to think what we can do to make this season more meaningful and to do for others. I'm thinking about being matched with a family who doesn't have much and giving gifts to them. I realize it needs to involve sacrifice for Joshua as well or it doesn't work.

I talk to Joshua about the major purchases we make and how we save our money for them. He just sees us buying what we want, but doesn't know/realize the times we don't buy what we want or we save to buy it later. I talk to him about kids who don't have nice homes, clothes, and toys. We've done to service projects together through our church. I have to say at this point he still doesn't get it. He thinks he's deprived, but I'm working on it. Mainly through example and conversation.

I sure welcome input from others.

Link to post
Share on other sites

We took a Dave Ramsey class several years ago at church. In it, he talked about a children's money program that he has developed.

The gist is this: Don't give your children an allowance. Let them earn commission. Give them specific chores worth specific dollar amounts (based on age) and let them earn their own money. Every week, pay them and let them see exactly how much that is. Have them divide their income into thirds = 1/3 charity,; 1/3 savings; 1/3 BLOW - whatever they want to use it for. When your child asks for some toy or something other than holidays, tell them to save up for it and MAKE THEM DO IT. Don't give them the last $20.00 just to let them get it (which is probably hard). Make them earn every penny (including taxes) for their purchase.

Of course, Dave sells books and a program kit to help you through it: http://www.daveramsey.com/shop/Youth_Resou...ashbook?AFID=17

But he also has a website just for kids: http://kids.daveramsey.com/

We plan on implementing this system with Makenzie as soon as she is old enough to "get it". Probably in a few months when her birthday rolls around. It's the best way I've heard on how to teach her the value of money.

Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a good topic...because I think about this "stuff" everyday. I am interested in hearing how other families solve these issues.

Another spin on this...How do we as parents effectively role model for our children, when everything we do looks too easy, to them?

For instance, I work part-time and make a decent salary, so it looks like I am home all the time because I do not have to go into the office everyday. I am always home when the girls get home from school. Sounds perfect, right? The problem is I make working "outside the home" look too easy, never mind that it took 20 years to get this kind of job, my children never saw that part. My children do not hear about financial struggles within our home, as we live very much below our means, which is how we prefer to live.

I recycle their clothes by taking the barely used or worn items to the resale shop regularly, putting this small income into their savings accounts.

I donate regularly... otherwise my house would be overrun by things! (Not so much purchased by us, more so by well-meaning friends and family.) :huh:

I wonder how I can do more to help others, and more importantly for my children to know about helping others. It's not just about "things". Lending a helping hand, being neighborly, genuine concern for others is more important to me.

It's funny, before kids, we had always strived to build a secure life, live in a nice home, make sound financial decisions, find the best job-with time left to do other things, like vacations etc. Alot of our initial goals were already accomplished by the time we had kids.

Now my concern is more about how our life is perceived by our children. Are they/we thankful enough? Do they see us working hard enough? Are we adequately preparing our children for the struggles that lay before them (soon), their first job? earning a paycheck? working long hours? doing whatever it takes? setting goals and working towards them?

We talk about the price of gas and groceries...but does it affect them in anyway, yet?

At the same time, we have earned the right to do as we please, to buy things that please us, to share with friends and family, take vacations, go to the bookstore every Saturday, go to Chick-fi-la on Monday nights, etc. Is there a bigger cost to the things we choose to do?


Link to post
Share on other sites

I also think this is a great topic to explore as parents. Dante and Nicole have all they need. Sometimes, when I think about some of the things other parents buy for their kids, I think we pale in comparison... yet I think we do and buy so much. Dante is 21/2 years old and honestly we have really only purchased him about 4 toys. On his first Birthday, he received enough toys to last a long time. That's because we asked for no gifts please. I think in many ways I'm afraid if we create that monster "I WANT MORE ALL THE TIME" then we have done it to ourselves and done our children a great dis-service. That will last a life time. Growing up, my siblings and I made up games, made our own games and fiddled around with everyday objects. We even made our own slip and slide out of a plastic used to cover furniture while painting. It was fun, because we didn't know better. I truly love looking back on the days when we had little luxuries growing up. It makes me feel so blessed and honored to have what we do today. I know we worked hard to be where we are and my plan is to find a way to show the same to our children. It all starts in our home. Really, one day it won't matter what other's think... I'm for real. I care about respect and that is earned. Material objects are great, but you have to have a strong inner being and not just a superficial shell that will crack at any moment.

Great topic,


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just a short reply and more to come. I think teaching our children to be grateful for what they have is a big plus. If our kids ask us for something at the store most of the time we ask them how much money they have to spend. When they don't have enough sometimes we will give them some wriggle room and other times they go without. We want to teach them that money does not grow on trees. They have to appreciate it and spend it wisely. Dave Ramsey is wonderful and he has cute ideas for kids.

The most important thing we do is pray for our blessings. A warm or cool house, a warm bed, food, dad's job and that we have each other.

Does anyone have ideas on teaching younger children how to serve. I would love to work with a hunger program like on Thanksgiving but my kids are still too young.

Greatful for any ideas?

Heather :)

Link to post
Share on other sites


I don't think a child is ever too young to take to a food pantry or other charity organization. My parents took us to inner-city missions in Camden many times as children. Frankly, some of my earliest memories are of my parents engaged in some kind of charitable endeavor. I grew up thinking that this kind of behavior was normal and that giving was just part of what you did as a human being.

So, by all means, take your kids along when you do mission work (as long as it's safe) and let them see you giving back. Soon enough, when they are able, they'll want to be part of it, too.

On a related topic, Christianity Today offers an interactive assessment of how you and your church view giving. While it's skewed toward what is preached in the pulpit and done by parishioners, it offers some insight into how we ourselves think of charity.

Here's the link. Just click on the "take assessment" button to take you to the interactive part.

Link to post
Share on other sites

John, I think you're right. When I was a little girl growing up in Chicago, my parents often took me along on visits to a children's home called Kemmerer Village. (Of course, it had the unfortunate side effect of feeding my childhood fantasies that I was actually an orphan who'd been adopted by a humble pastor and his wife after my oh-so-cool biological family was abducted by aliens... but even that in itself is kind of funny, considering what I now do for a living?!) I've often wished that Habitat for Humanity did something like a "family build" because I know my kids would LOVE to feel they were part of building a house for somebody, but I'm sure the liability of having kids near a construction site eliminates any possibility of that ever happening.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I love this topic! So important in this day and age.

I am always reminded of the high school senior who was failing my class miserably (like 35%), whom later I saw speed by me in the parking lot driving a red, two seater BMW. And I thought, of course :(

This story about alternative gifts was on the home page of MSN today:


I have done class projects for Heifer in the past and last year our junior class spent the night at Heifer Ranch in Arkansas-- where they lived as they do in less developed nations-- no food, shelter, etc... They described it as the worst experience of thier lives and could not imagine living like that.


Link to post
Share on other sites

An inspiring holiday message on this very subject, from http://www.tdjakes.com:

Raising Grateful, Empathetic Children

by T. D. Jakes

"Everyone who knows the power and the value of gratitude benefits from Thanksgiving—not just on a Thursday in November, but every day of the year."

—T. D. Jakes

In our contemporary, commercial society, the Thanksgiving holiday we celebrate this month often slides by us with hardly a mention as we race toward the Christmas season. It could fall right off the calendar and some people wouldn't even notice it was missing!

Economically speaking, Thanksgiving isn't a very profitable holiday. Sure, turkey sales peak around that fourth week of November and no doubt, sweet potato revenues increase, and pumpkin pie ingredients spike. But beyond the grocery stores, nobody really benefits from Thanksgiving except maybe florists who sell centerpieces or gift shops offering seasonal decorations.

Now that I think about it, I know a lot of people who benefit from Thanksgiving. I certainly do, and I have taught my children to experience its blessings as well. Everyone who knows the power and the value of gratitude benefits from Thanksgiving—not just on a Thursday in November, but every day of the year. Some of the good results thanksgiving produces in our lives are: reminding us that we are not self-sufficient; turning our focus away from our wants and needs and onto the blessings we have; breaking the hold of selfishness and greed; and developing a healthy sense of humility.

How can you raise your children to be grateful for what they have and empathetic toward those who have less? Here are a few ideas:

* Teach them to say "thank you" when they receive gifts and to write thank-you notes when they are old enough. Remind them that they like to be thanked and not ignored when they do nice things for people.

* Dedicate a portion of a shelf in your pantry to canned goods you will donate to a food bank this Thanksgiving. Take your children grocery shopping with you and ask them to choose one canned good per shopping trip to give to someone who cannot afford to buy groceries.

* Read them stories or show them videos that help them understand that everyone is not prosperous.

* Teach them to save money for what they want. This is called "delayed gratification" and when they finally obtain the objects of their desires, they will appreciate them more.

* Never underestimate your power as a role model. Live a grateful life in front of them. Let them see and hear you saying "thank you" and helping those in need.

I believe we need to teach our children to be thankful, not just during what we call the "holiday season" of Thanksgiving and Christmas, but on a daily basis. Teach them to develop a lifestyle of thanksgiving instead of simply using the term "Thanksgiving" for the year's most elaborate meal. Decide to focus on Thanksgiving not simply as a prelude to Christmas, but as a season in which you and your family will be grateful, kind, sympathetic, and generous to others—then continue in that attitude all year long.

Plus, some more useful links related to this topic:

Helping Children to be Thankful

A VideoBlog, on Raising Grateful Children in an Age of Entitlement

Maria Shriver, on how her parents raised their kids to make a difference

Recommended Reading: The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, by Dr. Wendy Mogel

Raising Philanthropic Children

Children for Children: Guidelines for Kids' Do-It-Yourself Service Projects


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is such an important topic. Our society as a whole is in a very "it's all about me and what I can get" state of mind. We have to be dilligent about teaching children to be thankful for everything when they are getting so many messages for more, more.

I think it is important for our children to see service to others as just part of life. Just what you are supposed to do. There are so many things we can do even when they are young like visiting a retirement home or Alzheimer's center. The faces of the residents light up with joy just seeing a little one smile and wave at them. Reading children's books with them, singing, or just visiting for awhile is so appreciated and teaches our children that it is important to take time for others. Something easy to do that can be done at any time. :)

I have already learned from you all, and I look forward to hearing more!

Link to post
Share on other sites

While in the car tonight I was listening to Delilah sp? on the radio. She had a lady call in that said every year each post office receives multiple Dear Santa letters from children. The letters have no where to go so this listener decided to pick some up and maybe answer them for a service project. She answered the letters with gifts, cookies and money with her sons boy scout troop but you could do this just with your family.

The boy that wrote the Christmas letter to Santa wanted boots and gloves for his mom, a doll for his sister and sheets for his own bed. How sweet!

I think I will ask for some letters when I go to the post office tomorrow.

Heather :)

Link to post
Share on other sites
. . .every year each post office receives multiple Dear Santa letters from children. The letters have no where to go. . .

I think I will ask for some letters when I go to the post office tomorrow.

Heather :)

It's too bad the post office won't forward them to either Santa Clause, Indiana or Christmas, Florida because both of those towns send Santa letters :(

That's nice of you to ask for some letters, Heather. I never thought about doing that, but maybe I will when I go buy my stamps to send out my Christmas cards.


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...