Lately the news seems to be telling us that instead of being the root of all evil, the love of money is what makes the world go round. Therefore, it’s no surprise most kids consider wealth to be the goal of a successful life.
How do we help our children get off the money-go-round while still teaching them to be responsible stewards?
First, it is helpful to examine our own attitude toward money to see if we are in line with Gospel values. If we tell our kids that money isn’t the most important thing in life yet constantly bemoan our lack, fret about the cost of living and skimp on donations, our actions will speak much louder than our words. Like the pre-flight announcement before take-off reminds us, we have to put our own oxygen mask on before we can assist others.
Next, helping our children understand the difficult lesson that they can’t afford to purchase everything they want when they want is the key to responsible money management. By insisting that children actually have the cash in hand (no putting it on Mom’s credit card) before buying something is perhaps the single most important lifelong lesson that can be transmitted.
But in order to have money to manage, kids have to have money. The one thing you want to avoid is having them think of you as their own personal ATM, where withdrawals can be made at will. All children benefit from having some money of their own, which allows them to exercise responsible monetary decision making — for example, buying a candy bar today means you won’t be able to get a toy tomorrow.
Our society puts so much value on money, that it is easy for our kids to get the message that a person’s moral worth is connected with their net worth. But Jesus preaches a different message: tax collectors, sinners, wealthy and poor — Jesus calls all of those to follow him. To the rich man, he says, “Sell what you have and . . . come, follow me” (Mt 19:21). No one is better or worse in the eyes of God because of their financial status or the stuff they own. One way to help your kids learn this lesson is to surround your family with friends who share your values, no matter their economic status.
Finally, one thing that all Catholic families need to insist on is the importance of giving. No matter how much or how little your children have, be resolute that they give away some portion, no matter how small, for, as the traditional prayer attributed to St. Francis says, “it is in giving that we receive.”