the parenting files: raising generous kids in a materialistic world

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A few years ago Ezra (who is the supreme gift giver of the family) started this habit of giving away one of his toys to any of his friends or cousins that came over. I remember watching him and having to fight the immediate reaction to stop him.

I had a ton of logical reasons why he should not give that toy away after all...

The toy was new-ish.
The toy wasn't cheap.
Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Thankfully I realized that my stopping him would be equal to squelching his joy and his developing generosity.

And so, I didn't stop him, but rather learned from him that day.

I have realized how I as  a parent can set an environment of materialism, albeit unknowingly or subtly.

It's so easy to do.
So so easy.

Not that I claim to have this all figured out or kids that never struggle with materialistic tendencies, but Jeremiah and I have learned to be very intentional in this area over the past few years. Here are a few practical things we do to help fight the accumulation of stuff and the tight grip to hold onto it:

1) When you get one you give one.

This one is pretty easy, but whenever our kids get a new toy they give one away...and not a broken or unusable one either. We keep a giveaway box in the laundry room and when it gets full off it goes.

2) We encourage gifts of time or experiences from friends and family whenever possible, over toys.

A trip to the zoo, a family membership to a museum, movie tickets...these kinds of gifts create memories and relationships. I've never stepped on a memory in my bare feet that made me say ungodly things, or had a play room absolutely wrecked with experiences.

3) Move your family to Haiti.

What? You don't think this one is practical?! Ha! Okay, so maybe everyone shouldn't do a radical move to a third world country and sell most of their stuff. However, everyone should NOT be afraid to realize that stuff is just that...stuff. Replaceable and with no inherent eternal value. It's super easy to say you aren't materialistic, but don't be afraid to take drastic measures to make sure you are inviting your kids into a bigger story for their life than just the accumulation of stuff. That will look different for everyone,

4) They'll never be more generous than me.

Oh yeah, so pretty much everything I try to teach my kids about being generous becomes null and void if I'm not setting the example. And most of my example is displayed to my kids in ways I don't even realize I'm setting attitude about my things, my complaints, my thankfulness or lack thereof. Do I always want the newest thing or do they see me as genuinely content with what I have? Do they see me being generous?

 5) Provide opportunities for generosity, 

Finally, sometimes we have to grease the wheel, so to speak, with our kids, and provide opportunities for them to be generous. This doesn't have to be elaborate or complicated, but it does require intentionality from us parents. For us, this means letting our kids give away their things when they want, making sure they are giving portions of their allowance back to the Lord, finding local and global organizations to partner with. This also means that we have the discussion with our kids to help them learn to listen to the Holy Spirit's prompting in their own lives.

We are moving fast into the Holiday season and this time of year is a perfect time to start a new precedent within our kids lives, and allow them to experience the joy that comes with giving.

What are some ways you fight the gimme attitude in your kids?! (or yourself!)

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