Looking to learn how to raise a generous child?
I have had conflict most of my life between what I think I want and what I really need.
Most people share this conflict with me.
That conflict also appears in our children, as well.
We don’t have to teach children to struggle with determining between wants and needs. It’s a natural response to life. And if they need any help doing so—they can easily learn the struggle from us.
As parents, we are the primary shapers of our children’s attitudes toward money, things, and desires. Our children will either be “givers” or “takers” in society, and that will be greatly influenced by the life they live in our home.
How do we raise a generous child?
How do we help our children (and ultimately ourselves) be people who genuinely enjoy living sacrificial lives—considering the interest of others—being givers rather than takers as the Bible commands us to do?
Here are 10 tips that we tried to practice in our own home. It has been amazing to watch our boys, now young adults on their own, having developed generous hearts toward others. They are far more generous than I was at their age.
And let me be clear. The fact that they turned out that way is all grace. God has blessed us greatly. But we have been intentional to live out biblical principles—and we have learned that they work when applied “generously.”
Here are 10 ideas on how to raise a generous child:
1. Have fun and be generous parents.
The story is told of Jesus and the disciples attending a wedding. The party had been going for a while when something tragic happened. They ran out of wine. That was a serious problem to the host of the party. It was a huge cultural embarrassment to run out of food or wine. Jesus took some big barrels of water and turned them into the best wine the people had that night. The people were overwhelmed.
The Bible says that was the very first miracle Jesus ever did. As culturally important as weddings were in those days, it still sounds like God met a want, rather than a need.
It is very clear that God is not trying to keep us from having what we want or from having fun in life. God is not opposed to blessing us with things we want but may not even need. We should not be afraid to do the same with our children. If we can afford to, and if our children are living within the boundaries set for our home, we should not be afraid to give them gifts they simply want but may not even need. (I thought I would start with an easy one first.)
2. Help children understand the difference between a need and a want.
It is understandable why it is difficult to raise children who understand the difference between a need and a want when we as parents struggle with the same issues. This will take a lifetime of teaching.
As much as God wants to bless us with wants, if we study the Bible, God seems far more interested in helping fulfill our needs than He does in giving us everything we want. In fact, God never promises to provide our want list, yet He does promise to meet all our needs (Philippians 4:19). Granted, there are some that take verses like this out of context and teach that God gives us everything we ask for, but that doesn’t line up with the rest of Scripture.
The problem from a biblical perspective is that we have a messed up system of determining need versus want. That thing inside us that chooses good over evil, better or best, need versus want, is broken.
When we apply biblical understanding, most actual needs go beyond just enjoyment for today or even just for me. For something to fall into the category of need it should provide some lasting value to society or at least to my own character. Needs, beyond basics such as food and water, become things like righteousness—and love, and joy, and peace, and contentment.
We can even ask ourselves, does this “thing” benefit someone more than just me? Does it add value to someone’s life or to my own character? A true need, in this context, almost becomes something that money cannot buy.
We should consistently invest biblical principles into our children—helping them understand the things that matter to God. Helping children develop a hunger for things they need as much as—or even more—than things they want.