Image used by permission of Carol Weisman
In the months since I've undertaken to learn how better to teach my children about money, numerous people have told me about the jar system they use with their own kids to encourage them to save. Every jar system has some variation, but at its core is the idea that children need to budget the money they accumulate so that they can achieve a number of financial goals at once. Having budgeted, the kids can have fun with what they've earned while preparing for the future and setting aside money for those in need. I'll let my friend Keegan Johns take it from here:
The conversation usually stops at the jars. Problem solved, right? Now your kid knows how to save up.
But having that last jar for charitable giving raises the question of how your kids can give the most effectively. How do they decide on a cause that is meaningful? Should they give it to a local charity? Can they use the money to fund their own service projects? Thankfully, Carol Weisman has a great book on that topic, Raising Charitable Children, and it's well worth your time to read it.
In her book, Weisman takes a simple approach to teaching parents how they can help their children. She starts every chapter with a question that she then answers in the course of the chapter. She breaks each question down into smaller questions for the reader to digest. Here are a few examples of her topics:
Can we give something other than money?
Which special occasions are good opportunities for kids to do charity and volunteer work?
What are the pros and cons of doing a one-time service project compared to an ongoing volunteer experience?
Weisman answers these questions and punctuates many of her answers with stories of children finding ways to serve and give.
Her book is a valuable resource. Parents often fear—justifiably so—that their children will become spoiled brats who, in turn, become spoiled adults. Rather than let this force loose upon our world, these parents mercifully decide to teach their children the twin values of gratitude and generosity.
Whether children grow up in affluent households or in poor ones, Raising Charitable Children is a helpful tool for their parents. Naturally, families with more means can give more, but Weisman gives recommendations that are accessible to anybody who cares to learn.
If there's anything I would love to see added to the conversation Weisman is leading, it would be the cultivation of charitable traits beyond the desire to engage in giving money and volunteering time. Charity—at least in a biblical sense—transcends giving money and time to those who are suffering. Yes, charitable children will gravitate towards those fine practices, but charity is also a deeper love for those around us. In other words, if we want to counter the snobbery that spoiling our children tends to create, our desired outcome will not just be that they undertake grand service projects, it will be that they treat every person they know—poor and rich alike—with kindness, appreciation, and compassion.
I suspect that Weisman already understands this principle and that she is well equipped to lead that additional conversation; the tone of her writing and the passion with which she tells stories of loving service suggest it. All in all, she's made a terrific contribution to the field of financial education, and her book is a welcome presence in our homes.