5 Things I Learned from My Sunday School Class

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A group of parents have gathered on Sunday mornings since September 10.  Together we not only read and discussed the book, The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money, but we also shared best practices, parenting fails, and pondered together if what we were doing would have a lasting impact on our children.

Here are 5 things I’ve learned from our time together:

1. It’s important to talk about money. Silence and even lies around it do no one any good. Embrace the tough questions by encouraging an inquisitive mind. “Have you asked a good question today?” When questions around money arise respond first with your own question to determine an appropriate response, “Why do you ask?”

2. Allowance. 3 Jars: Give, Save, Spend. Lieber argues that making allowance dependent upon chores makes work the primary focus. By all means, give kids chores! But there are several other means to instill a good work ethic; allowance, he says, should be the tool that helps children learn to save, spend, and give money.  

3. Family rituals around spending are the perfect way to instill family values. One Glenn mom, Mindy McGarrah Sharp, shared this family tradition:

When Tommy and I were Peace Corps volunteers in Suriname, South America, we lived in a small village in the Amazon rainforest and were entrusted with friendships and knowledge about cultural practices. One practice we decided to honor if and when we had children was the "bigi yari," which means the big year. This is the name for birthdays ending in 5 and celebrated when one turns 5, 10, 15....80, 85, 90, every five years. Families don't celebrate every bigi yari because in the traditional bigi yari celebration, the person with the birthday gives a big party and gives gifts to all the guests instead of receiving gifts from all the guests. We've adapted a version of this practice in our family now. In the US, many people have or would like to have birthday parties for every birthday. We try to have small birthday celebrations for most years, but on bigi yaris, we celebrate in this way: we give little to no presents on Christmas or birthdays and have no birthday parties for anyone the year someone has a bigi yari and instead the person with the bigi yari plans a trip for our family. For example, when our son James Henry had his first bigi yari, when he turned 5, he requested going sledding as a family. Since his birthday is in March, we planned a trip where we might be able to find snow in early spring. Instead of Christmas presents or birthday presents that year, we traveled to Colorado and went sledding as a family. When Lucy Claire turned 10, she planned a trip for us to see the friends and places she had lived from Nashville to Tulsa to her friend who moved to Dallas and our families here in Atlanta. We are enjoying honoring our friends from Suriname with a practice that makes birthdays in the US less about material gifts and more about the gift of relationships.

4. Talk about giving. You want your children to be generous? Talk about how and why you give. Lieber writes three reasons to give, 1) it’s a duty; “families who have more than they need ought to give something so that families who have very little can have more of the things that they need but can’t afford.”  2) “Research shows that the amount we give away is a great predictor of how happy we are.” And finally, 3) “Communities are stronger when people know they can rely on one another. We would all feel better knowing we live in a neighborhood, city, country, and world where we will help others when they’re having a hard time and they will help us if we need it…giving generously helps reinforce our common bonds.” What are other reasons you give? 

5. Ron Lieber concludes his first chapter with these words: “…every conversation about money is also about values. Allowance is also about patience. Giving is about generosity. Work is about perseverance. Negotiating their wants and needs and the difference between the two has a lot to do with thrift and prudence. And running through all of these conversations is a desire for kids to have perspective – to know why they may have more than most people in the world but will probably never have more than every one of their peers. And why there’s no shame in having more or having less, as long as you’re grateful for what you have, share it generously with others, and spend it wisely on the things that make you happiest. It’s for our kids, but it’s true for us, too.”  

Our study and conversation is timely in light of our upcoming Commitment Sunday - November 12 - where I hope that you’ll prayerfully consider pledging to Glenn. How we view and spend money is a reflection of our values. What does your spending say about your values? As a parent I often feel like I have a mirror held up in front of me. So, I challenge you - and myself - to consider how and why we can give generously this stewardship season.