One of the earliest battles parents with young children have is the battle of ownership. The cries of “me, my, mine” may be carrying through your house on a daily basis now, especially as the Christmas season draws near. If not, step into a room of toddlers and it won’t take long before you hear the phrase, “No! That’s mine!” And while we may be more discreet or tactful in our outward expression of selfishness as we get older, much of the time, our heart attitude remains the same when we are adults.
This attitude becomes more obvious this time of year. We know we are supposed to focus our children’s hearts, and our own, on the miraculous meaning of Christmas. Yet it’s so easy to get swept up in the contest of finding the best deals of the season, creating the most delicious Christmas treats, and decorating our homes. Whether or not we like it, our habits and attitudes trickle down to our children. And seeing our own greed and selfishness manifest in them is not exactly encouraging.
So how do we teach our own children to be good stewards as we are trying to become one ourselves?
Teach Them to Manage
Once again, it’s about ownership. God wants us to recognize that we are managers, not owners, of all we have. He has entrusted resources, relationships, time, and money to us, and He desires that we are faithful in the way we manage it.
The biggest lessons in life are generally caught, not taught. I have fond memories of Christmas growing up, but I missed basic truths from my parents. Talk to your children about how all the gifts they are getting for Christmas are just to enjoy here on the earth, but they aren’t what matter most in life. God ultimately owns all we have, so it should be a joy for us to share with others.
Involve your older kids in planning and shopping for Christmas gifts. Talk to them about the time it takes to plan, make lists, budget, and find good deals. Ask them questions about what meaningful gifts they would like to give or receive, and allow them to be part of the process.
Resolve to live as a steward, and your children will inevitably learn how to do the same. It will take intentional conversations and lessons, but they’ll know what a steward looks like.
Teach Them to Work
Work is good! It was always part of God’s plan for man to work – He gave Adam charge over the garden before sin entered the world. Help your children understand that we were created to work and that it is a blessing. Help them discover the skills and talents God has given them. Excellence and diligence combined with humility will equip your child to become salt and light in the world.
Find some ways to work together to serve the poor in your church or community, then discuss ways to meet their needs. Give your children jobs and chores around the house so they can earn the money they need to buy gifts for others.
Teach Them to Give
This is the best way to protect your child from becoming materialistic. Generosity will bring your child priceless joy and prepare them for supporting God’s work in their generation. Anonymous giving is fun and they’ll delight in taking part!
Help them set up a plan to give a tithe throughout the year and develop a generosity fund for the Christmas season. Generosity may or may not come easily for your child – focus on the principles that will best teach your child God’s intent for generosity.
Remind your kids that generosity isn’t always about money. They can be generous with their time, their words, and their talents as well. Be sure to show your children that you don’t have to have a lot of money in order to be generous.
Find a way for your child to give their time, money, or talent this Christmas season. There are a multitude of organizations and charities that have end-of-the-year events for you to get involved with. Let your child help decide where they would like to give, and teach them the joy of giving!
Teach Them to Save
Delayed gratification is possibly the best lesson your children can learn when it comes to wise money management. Talk to them about the difference between saving money and hoarding it.
Not only will this get them in a great habit, but it will build their savings from a young age. If they want a new game or app, make them wait to purchase it until they have enough money to pay cash for it. You’ll instill in them a great work ethic and discipline to avoid debt.
Show your children the budget that you live on and talk to them about how you save to buy them gifts for Christmas. Practice moderation. Jesus and his disciples lived humbly, as did Paul and the early church. You don’t have to live in poverty, but set a good example. Demonstrate your willingness to make sacrifices to meet the needs of others.
Read Matthew 6:19-21 with them and explain what treasures in heaven mean. The Christmas season is a wonderful time to talk about the difference between earthly and heavenly treasures. All the gifts under the tree stay here on earth. But the gift of salvation in Jesus is everlasting.
How are you teaching the lesson of stewardship this Christmas season? Share your ideas with us!