Raise Your Children to be Generous: 3 Important Tips

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On a Spring day in 1998, I reluctantly notified our mission chairman that I wouldn’t be able to make the Mexico Mission trip. My reason? I did not have the $500 deposit and didn’t have time to raise the money. However, that same day, my daughter called, “Dad, I know that you really, really want to take this trip, and it just so happens that I have an extra $500. I want you to use it for your deposit.”

Recalling that conversation still makes me misty eyed, not because I was able to take the trip, but because our daughter made such a generous offer. Knowing that Jaime, a struggling cosmetologist, did not have ANY extra money punctuated the bigheartedness of our girl, and being the recipient made me realize that my wife and I had raised a remarkable young woman. Lest I shortchange our other three children, allow me to state that all four of our children, now in their thirties, are generous with their hearts, their time and their money.

I wish I could pinpoint the exact strategy my wife and I used to raise generous children, but I must confess that such a strategy never existed. However, we did a few things right, so I will share three tips, some of which we did pretty well and some which we could have done better.

1. Walk the walk.

Children learn by watching their parents. Period. Jesus was teaching this principle when he said that students cannot be greater than their teachers (Mat 10:24). Our children learned generosity as they watched my wife taking hot soup to sick neighbors, baking holiday treats to give away at Christmastime and simply giving of herself any time any of us have had needs. Myself? Although I have been doing better in recent years, generosity has never come easy for me. Still, in spite of my self-centered nature, I was acutely aware of the fact that my children were watching how I treated the restaurant server and how I responded to red poppy collections at stop signs. Such awareness, I am sure, prompted my own generosity and (I hope) encouraged our children to do likewise.

2. Involve your children in giving.

Our church, for years, gave homemade Christmas gifts to the inmates at a nearby minimum security prison. Coordinating with a prison minister, we (children included) were allowed to deliver those gifts to the prison and then participate in a Christmas worship service with the inmates. The gifts consisted of homemade Christmas cards and homemade cookies. For weeks before Christmas, our children’s Sunday School classes made hundreds of homemade cards. In the meantime, parents and children made dozens of homemade cookies. Janice devised an assembly line approach for our family: some mixing, some placing on cookie sheets, some timing and removing from oven and some putting the cooled cookies in plastic bags. The highlight of our Christmases during those years was taking our children with us to deliver the gifts and participate in the service.

3. Make giving a requirement.

Just a minute, Joe. Isn’t ‘required giving’ an oxymoron? After all, if it doesn’t come from the heart, is it really giving?” Good point. But Proverbs 22:6 tells us to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it.” We train our children to study, to work and to treat others as they want to be treated. Should we not also train them to give? Of course! And such training does not mean handing them a quarter as you walk into the church building…that is a lesson of how to be a courier. Because we taught our children to earn their own money (by paying them for certain responsibilities), the offerings they gave to the Lord were true gifts. Did we militantly force them to give every single Sunday? Not at all. In fact, we should have been more diligent about it…something I hope you can do better than we did. Candidly, getting all four of them into the car on Sunday mornings was challenging enough without always remembering their offerings. However, in spite of our inconsistencies, the giving they did as children stayed with them when they became adults.

It is more than money.

I want to close by emphasizing that true giving, while it is a discipline, is much more profound than a simple transfer of goods. When you train your children to be givers, you are molding their hearts; hearts which will develop into generous spirits as they enter adulthood. When our oldest son Josh was a high school senior, he saved his pizza delivery money for months so he could spend it on vacation. But, when we encountered a needy family while en route, he gave it all to them.

Who knows? Maybe your son will do the same. Or maybe your daughter will some day offer to pay your deposit on a short-term mission trip. I hope so.

What other tips do you have for those looking to raise generous children? Tell us a story from your own life, and meet us in the comments!

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11 Comments
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  1. I don’t have any children yet, but I love your suggestion to “walk the walk.” That’s so important, not only for children to see, but other adults to see as well! If we’re to be Christians, we’re to walk the walk like Jesus would.

    Great tips Joe!

  2. Thanks John. My wife and I are living proof that parents don’t have to “walk the walk” perfectly to end up with some great kids. In fact, knowing that we sometimes struggled, and were open about those struggles, was probably a good thing.

  3. Great article. I agree that parents need to model financial responsibility. I also enjoyed reading that it points to something more than just money.

    • Thanks 20′s. Little eyes don’t miss a thing. And yes — generosity is more than just money — it is a character trait.

  4. Great post, definitely agree as parents we are the example to our children. If we do wrong they will do wrong.

    • sokun,
      Simply being aware, as a parent, that we are being watched, is a great motivator. Children, as you say, will repeat what they see us do.

  5. Great article Joe! I like the suggestion to require giving as well.

    We give our children “allowance” as they complete their specific, assigned chores around the house. This money is allocated as follows and put into a unique 3-slot piggy bank…

    1/3 to “giving” (10% tithe and remainder to family giving jar)
    1/3 to “bank” slot for savings
    1/3 to “store” slot to spend however they wish

    We take the money that accumulates in the giving jar and decide as a family how we will give it. I encourage them to “be aware” of needs around them and participate in our giving decisions.

    While not a perfect system, I am seeing results in the way they approach money and using it to meet the needs of others! It is so cool (as you experienced with Jaime) to see them give selflessly!

    While we cannot force them to give as they go out on their own, we can certainly create habits and a mindset of giving. Of course, if the Bible is accurate when it says it is more blessed to give than receive, then they will see the benefits and WANT to give on their own!

    Sorry for the long comment…this is something I am passionate about!

    • Chris,
      I love your 3 slot piggy bank idea. You are definitely more organized than Jan and I were. Also…involving the entire family in the giving decisions is a great way to “train your children”. I love the fact that you are already seeing your children give selflessly. That is one of the greatest experiences a parent can ever have. My hunch is that you are going to see that over and over in your lives!

  6. Thanks for the comment Wayne. Now — to hold you accountable: what strategy are you going to use for teaching your children responsibility?

  7. It is really a must for parents to teach their children in how to be generous and at the same time being thrifty. I love the first tip, the “walk the walk”, parents must be the example. Knowing that kids really learn from parents in many things so the parents must be really showy in what they want their kids to learn from them.
    Parents must focus on the nurturing stage of their kids, the time when they must learn the good things and manners.

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