Jo Rowe is helping her children to value what they have
It’s the time of year when we think about all the new stuff that we are going to get, want or have to buy for others. Adverts for the latest toy bombard our screens, the Christmas ads tell our kids that they need more and more stuff.
Christmas is nearly upon us and in this season of joy and giving, one of the most googled parenting questions at this time of the year is: “Why aren’t my children more appreciative of what they have?” I find this fascinating!
This isn’t just about tighter budgets and parents wanting to spend less on their kids (although that might have a part to play) this is about teaching our kids to be content with what they have: to be grateful. So in a world that is constantly selling the newest and latest to our kids, how do we teach our kids to be grateful? How do we help them appreciate all that they have without looking for the next thing to own or experience? When we live in an instant world, where next day delivery, instant download, on demand TV and texting for food delivery is our daily life, how do our kids learn how to savour and enjoy life in the waiting and the wanting?
I have put together a few things that have helped our family on this subject, and a few that we are still working on!
Whether you call them family contributions, chores, jobs or housework, encouraging your kids to help around the house is a vital way to teach them the value of hard work. Understanding hard work is the gateway to understanding the cost of time, and therefore the value of money. When I say “encourage” your children to do chores, I actually mean make it a part of daily life. We do “age appropriate chores” in our house and we expect our kids to chip in to the daily life of work in our home. I read an incredible study done by the University of Minnesota, showing that kids who do chores from as young as three or four go on to have more self-confidence, resilience and are more appreciative of what they have and more content with their life as teens and adults.
We don’t pay pocket money for chores either, because that doesn’t reflect real life. (I don’t get rewarded for unloading the dishwasher or putting washing on!!)
Although we don’t pay for chores to be done, we do give our older kids a small allowance. Out of that allowance we expect them to buy certain things - presents for friends for birthday parties, extra non-essential clothing, the bus to town on a Saturday, their tithe etc. Having some money helps them understand how much things cost, and therefore how important it is to save for things. I don’t replace broken things, if earphones get broken they can choose to replace them themselves, or do without. My aim is to teach them the value of money and the difference between wanting and needing.
As a family, we sometimes work together to save money to give away for a cause. For example, our church was buying an ambulance for a village in Kenya, so we decided, as a family, that we would do without something to be able to give money. So we decided to give up fruit squash, chocolate, and pudding for a month and donate the money we would spend on those things. By doing without in order to give to someone else, we teach our kids what sacrifice means as well as showing them how others live. We found this a really powerful way to create appreciation.
4) Involving kids in family finance
Now please hear me, I am not saying we should talk about lots of details or worry or burden our kids but I do recommend sharing with them a broad picture of what our financial aims are. There have been seasons in our family life where money has been tighter than others. For example, when we had a season where we needed to be more careful with money, we have explained this and asked for ways we could work together to save money. We have worked out plans to still do fun things together. Carefully talking about money together makes us feel like a team, when we have to miss out on something or stop buying something we feel like it is a family decision and therefore we are all behind it. This makes the kids much more appreciative when we can spend money on a treat again. Equally, when we have had a bonus or some surprise money, we get to choose how to spend it together which makes it a much more joyful experience!
We have a saying in our family, “Gratitude shifts bad attitude!” Speaking out daily gratitudes is a great way to focus on all that we have rather than on what we don’t! Our family takes it in turns to say something we are thankful for on our way to school in the car.
As The Rowe family face down Christmas, we are trying to focus on the birth of Jesus and the joy of family. We are looking to build traditions and memories, the presents are a nice addition, but we genuinely enjoy the lead up more than the event. We try to keep christmas presents modest. And we try to remember those who have less than we do too by buying a wishlist present for a family in need through a local charity, and buying food for a food bank.
Don’t get me wrong, there will still be plenty of chat about presents and a huge amount of excitement about opening them on Christmas morning, but we aim to make Christmas more than buying, spending and getting. Apparently, the kids want to make a minitaure Salisbury Cathedral in gingerbread, and there’s a plan to have a sock snowball fight on Christmas eve. Growing appreciation and contentment for what we have takes some time and effort, but it does bring a sweetness to family life.