Why Giving Shows Love To Your Children
My mother was a single parent working full time with very little left over for anything extra. Yet she managed to give to me and my siblings in ways that left us feeling loved and valued.
Having little, giving more
As Emerson and I recently sat at the Dairy Queen, I was reminded again of my mother’s generosity.
I shared with him how much it meant to me when on a hot summer Sunday night after church we would talk our mother into going to the Dairy Queen. Not only was it a treat but it wasn't just “down the street.” We had to drive to the next town… so that meant money for ice cream and gas!
I have the fondest memories of her giving from what little she had.
I felt so loved.
A spirit of generosity
My mother’s spirit of generosity when we had no extra made our family really appreciate those special times and ultimately brought us closer together.
“A generous man will prosper;
he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed”
(Proverbs 11:25 NIV).
A spirit of generosity usually produces reciprocity where both sides feel loved, respected, and refreshed. I can vouch for that.
The majority of us give to our kids for their basic needs. We do that out of goodwill and being responsible.
But what about their wants? These are often disguised as “needs” from our kids who can be excellent negotiators!
Here we need to use wisdom as parents, as there can be a fine line between giving for the right reasons, and giving that spoils.
To help find the right balance, Emerson devotes a chapter to Giving in his book for the family. Here are some of the main points:
3 Reasons Why We Give To Our Children’s Wants
We give to show our love and spirit of generosity.
We can give to motivate our children to show us respect.
Our generous giving helps our kids discover their worth.
Not about money
Giving does not have to involve money; you can be creative, attentive and full of surprises.
For example, the greatest gift of all is your attention and time, as parenting and family advocate Joshua Straub, Ph.D so profoundly expresses in his blog post, Do You Really Have What it Takes to be a Parent?
A trip to the park, a bike ride, a hike in the woods or reading to a child all shout “I have time for you. You are important!”
With today’s technology I fear these are becoming old fashioned ways to give. But hopefully they will come into vogue once again as parents and grandparents realize they are priceless and timeless ways to show generosity.
Not about bribery
As for giving to motivate them to show us respect, this is not about bribery.
This is about giving to them graciously and lovingly and then appealing to them to respectfully express thanks.
Just say,”Thank you!”
Hopefully we have taught them at an early age to say “thank you for dinner” so they will repeat this when at a friend’s home. But more important than repeating what we teach them, we want to cultivate a grateful heart for every meal placed in front of them.
Do you set an example by thanking them for the smallest thing they do whether it is picking up toys or taking out the trash?
Do you write thank you notes and have you taught your kids to do the same?
Our example of being grateful to our Heavenly Father for all He has done for us can set an example for them, whether through our prayers at meals or just them hearing us give thanks for the simple things. We are showing them our respect to God for what He has given us.
It’s about modeling an attitude of gratitude.
Dave Ramsey and his daughter Rachel speak to this so well in their blog, “Don’t Miss One Quality That is Essential to Your Child’s Character.”
We value them but don’t spoil them
Lastly, they need to hear us say we give to them not because they deserve our gifts, but because we place immeasurable value on them.
I love Matthew 6:26 that reminds us that birds don't sow or reap or store away in barns and yet God feeds them and then He says, “Are you not much more valuable than they?”
And of course even if we have good intentions in our giving, to keep the Family Energizing Cycle on track, we can still unintentionally spoil children.
Giving too much runs the risk of undermining their spiritual fiber and character.
Wisdom from the past
As Moses taught the Law to the Israelites in the wilderness, he kept warning them to impress it on their hearts and the hearts of their children.
He knew how going from having little to having an abundance could be a disaster if there was not a recognition of God’s character.
He was afraid they would forget God once they reached the Promised Land of milk and honey and started enjoying houses they did not build, wells they did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves they did not plant. (Deuteronomy 6:1-12; 8:7-14)!
Perhaps you had little growing up and as a result don’t want your kids to struggle as you did. You give out of your abundance and with a good motive, but as a result do your children have so much they don’t even know what it means to trust God?
Too much giving
Being spoiled doesn't help anyone remember God and His will for their life.
And too much giving can make children extremely selfish.
We must guard against our children becoming “slaves, not of our Lord Jesus Christ but of their own appetites” (Romans 16:18).
When we give too much our children don’t see us as loving but more like a genie in a bottle, granting all their wishes on command.
They show a superficial respect when they want something but it is soon gone when they don't get what they want.
The Bible says the Israelites “reveled” in “God’s great goodness,” but ended up rebelling against Him.
How sad when our generosity ends up “giving” back to us self-centered kids who feel entitled and rebel against us or God.
Giving what seems best
Ultimately there is no formula to avoid giving too much but there is a biblical principle:
“While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training to live God’s holy best” (Hebrews 12:10, MSG).
God can show you what to give to your kids and how much.
Trust him to show you what seems best. And they will most likely feel loved!
In your giving, whether it be gifts or time, are you doing it out of love for your children or as a way to ease your guilt for not spending more time with them?
Look for ways to instill an “attitude of gratitude” in your children by thanking God for all the ways (big and small) He has blessed your family.
Take 15 minutes and write a thank you note to someone. Have your kids write one also so they see your example and find the joy in saying thank you!
From my heart,