10 Ways to Teach Kids to Be Generous

Learning what it means to be generous is hard for adults – and even more so for kids. Kids have a hard time understanding abstract concepts like giving or tithing because it’s not something they can see the benefit of immediately. Tony and Amy Hale are members of Vista and have done an awesome job of teaching their kids about what it means to be generous. Check out some of the things they have done with their family to make generosity a priority.

Parenting is hard work. So much of what we do as parents is continually teaching our children beyond what they learn in school, the things they need to know to function as independent adults. Things like: never eat yellow snow, reality TV isn’t real, and muffins are really just cupcakes for breakfast.

For us, it’s easy to think of practical everyday lessons that must be taught, but the long-term character building lessons seem to take more focus and deliberate planning. One of those character traits in our family is generosity. As with most parents, by the time we really figure this out, the kids will probably be grown. But here’s how we approach teaching generosity in our household.

Start with the premise that it all belongs to God, and it all comes from God (usually through work).

Keep it simple – the 3 things to do with money (in order):

  • Give
  • Save
  • Spend

Every dollar we get goes down one of those paths. With that foundation, we get specific in how money works, and how Christians should exhibit generosity:

  • to others around you – an example is tipping.
  • to those far away – sponsor a child in another country or support a global ministry.
  • in your community – serving in a local ministry to those in need.

Here are 10 specific ways we teach about money in the Hale household:

  • Talk about money. We discuss jobs, how people get paid, how business works, etc. As a result, one of our favorite family shows is Shark Tank.
  • Play Monopoly. No joke here. We have played more Monopoly games than I can count, and it teaches the kids how to do math in their heads and how to structure and negotiate deals.
  • Feed the needy. On the first Sunday of most months, you’ll find us feeding the needy in downtown Temple with other families from various churches through an organization called Feed My Sheep. We buy, prepare, and serve the food.
  • Calculate the tip and pay the check. Every Saturday morning I take one of my kids (on a rotation) to breakfast. When the check comes, I hand it to them and ask them to calculate the minimum tip (by simply doubling the tax). Then I hand them enough money to pay the check and they take it to the register by themselves and pay the check. Then we leave a tip, in cash, for more than the minimum…sometimes a lot more.
  • We sponsor three children through Compassion International or ServLife, and each of our own three children is matched up to one of the sponsored children. They are responsible for praying for and writing to their friend on a regular basis.
  • We pay commissions, not allowances. An allowance is something you get, but a commission is something you earn. We live in a sowing and reaping society, and the lesson is taught early that you must work to earn money. And some chores are just done as part of being a member of the household, without commission.
  • We encourage and discuss long-term saving. Our kids (12, 9, 9) are already saving for their first cars. We have told them we will pay half, matching what they have saved, but that they better start saving now because cars are expensive. We get specific about how much it takes to get a car, and what various cars cost.
  • We gently discourage frivolous spending, but allow it at times. It happens to every parent. You get to the check-out stand in any store and there are all the colorful and exciting impulse products ready to ensnare the naïve (or hungry) among us. Kids are especially weak at resisting these impulse buys, which are often at eye level. “Dad, may I buy this with my money?” Sometimes you have to let them, but I usually start by questioning if they even thought about the item 5 minutes before. But ultimately they will want to buy cheap junk, and by letting them sometimes, they will learn and gain wisdom.
  • Debt should be avoided. More than ten years ago, we adopted the seven baby steps to financial stewardship taught by Dave Ramsey. The cornerstone of his teaching on money is to get and stay out of debt. He, of course, pulled that wisdom straight out of the Bible.
  • We encourage tithing. In contrast to the Old Testament, the New Testament instructs us to give without providing specific percentages, amounts or formulas. So we start by teaching NT principles as a foundation, and then get specific with 10%. Why? Because kids need to start somewhere, and 10% gets habits started early. Giving should be sacrificial (Luke 21:4), deliberate (1 Cor. 16:2), and done with a cheerful heart (2 Cor. 9:7).

These are just some ideas to incorporate generosity into your family rhythm. Use everyday instances as teachable moments. You can take some of these ideas or come up with something that is going to be a better fit for your family. Whatever you do, make a plan to teach your kids how to be generous (and don’t forget to model generosity too!)