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As a concerned father of four young children and someone who has failed my stewardship responsibilities many times, my hope is that we can sidestep the costly mistakes by learning from one another.
One learning experience came at the end of my senior year in high school.
I sold my free and clear truck to purchase a 1999 Range Rover with nearly 100,000 miles on it. Let’s just say I could have hired a private driver for less money than that car cost me.
My father could have prevented me from making that poor decision as he watched me borrow money I didn’t have for that Range Rover. However, he knew the lesson would be rich and the stakes were relatively low at that point in my life. Lesson learned!
Challenges Parents Face
Raising financially disciplined children in an undisciplined society may be the hardest task parents face today. As parents, we are in the midst of an all-out war with a culture that does not honor or reward biblical principles.
The next time you watch TV or scroll through social media pay attention to the commercials. Nearly every one insists that you owe it to yourself and you can buy now and enjoy it while you pay.
Here are just a few of the challenges that make it difficult for parents to raise financially disciplined children:
- Friends and family spending habits
- Children’s misconceptions of expenses and where money comes from
- Cultural Messages
- Government’s uncontrolled spending habits (spending money they don’t have)
What Does Financial Discipline Look Like?
First let’s define what I mean by someone who is “financially disciplined.”
- They give proportionately (thoughtfully & reasonably)
- They are not in bondage to their lifestyle (low debt)
- They pay taxes with integrity and thanksgiving
- They have margin (money for an unforeseen expense, time to serve when called)
- They are accountable
The Bible has roughly 2,350 passages on money/possessions and how to give, save, and spend wisely. Financial literacy is an essential life skill. Unfortunately, personal finance can be a topic rarely discussed at home or taught in school. Parents, we are the main influence on a child’s financial life. Our children learn to earn, shop, save, invest, borrow and give by watching us.
“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6)
Steps to becoming financially disciplined
The foundation of financial stewardship is recognizing that God owns it all and we are simply stewards.
Biblical Stewardship is the use of God-given resources (time, talent, treasure, truth and relationships, etc.) for the accomplishment of God-given goals/treasures. One way to help your children recognize and understand this principle is to constantly give thanks to God for everything, big or small.
The second principle is teaching your children to give. Whether tithing or giving to a charitable cause, involve your children in the process. Depending on their age, they might not need all the details, however, include them on the why behind your giving. You can also create ways for them to save a portion of their earnings to give.
Understanding the concept of limited resources is the next principle. Some of us (myself included) are still learning this principle and this limited understanding stems our overextended culture. It is easy to swipe a credit card to satisfy a short-term want.
Don’t let them miss it. Talk about it frequently, show them how much stuff costs, and model restraint.
Delayed gratification may be the hardest principle. In today’s Amazon world you can literally click a button on your phone and have something delivered the same day.
Delayed gratification is the willingness and ability to sacrifice immediate desires in order to achieve a future benefit. This gives kids the thrill of being able to acquire something they really want by saving – and waiting – for it, this system also reinforces the concept of limited resources.
Lastly, allow them to fail. Allow your children to fail while the stakes are still small.
When I was younger, my parents would give me $10 a week for lunch at school. $2 a day could easily cover a school lunch, however, I was given all $10 on Monday and had to make it last until Friday. There were many weeks I failed and had to pack a lunch towards to end of the week.
The Bible is full of timeless principles and vivid examples. Set out down the path to intentionally raise young stewards. Remember that more is caught than taught and don’t be afraid to share your successes and your failures.
We approach stewardship through different lenses, based on where we believe God is leading us.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint
Raising young stewards is a marathon and not a sprint. Even though the days feel long the years go quickly. A great place to start is by sharing your personal successes and failures. There is so much to be learned and it allows children to see the trials and triumphs of life first hand.
Another great starting point is an age appropriate family finance meeting. Share the cost of ordinary household items and some of the sacrifices the family makes in order to do some of the things children often take for granted.
Lastly, find a professional to help you create a plan. Without a financial plan and clear direction, it is unlikely that you will reach your goals. Stewardship is not about how much you have, it is all about what you do with what you have.
You can change the direction of your family by changing how you look at finances and following these principles one step at a time.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)