Teaching Generosity


We give our kids allowance.

I got the idea from a Kevin Lehman book, but basically, I give each of my kids a dollar a week for each year of age.  So, my five-year-old gets $5 a week and my three-year-old gets $3 a week.  And they get it just for being part of our family.  No strings attached.

But there is a catch.  Another part of being in the family is that they help with family responsibilities.  They are asked to feed the dog, to keep their rooms clean, to clear the table and to pick up their shoes.  Here’s the fun part:  If they don’t do it, then I do it for them.  Without asking or nagging.  But, I charge to be their maid.  A lot.  In fact, I charge $1 to feed the dog.  And fifty cents to make a bed.  So, if they’re not doing their chores, before long, most or all of their allowance is going to pay me as their maid.

The system has worked wonderfully for us.  The kids do their chores without nagging and they’re learning to save money.  It’s great at the store.  If they want a toy, I simply ask them two questions:  1) Did you bring your wallet? And 2) Do you have enough money to buy it?  And, chances are 100 to 1 that the answer to at least one of those questions is no.  And then I can say something like “maybe another time” or “maybe you should save up”.  Simple.  No tears.  No fits.  No yelling.

But now I want to take this whole allowance thing one step further and use it to teach generosity.  I want them to realize that part of being a good financial steward is giving generously.  And, while I have them take a few quarters and put them in the offering plate at church, neither of my preschoolers has ever been asked to give generously or to dig deep into their pockets and to give up something they want for someone else.  I want to change that.  But I’m not sure how.

Last week, a huge firestorm hit our hometown of Austin, TX and burned thousands of people’s homes to the ground.  A few of my kid’s friends lost everything in one horrible fire.  Last night, I sat my kids down and explained what had happened.  I showed them pictures and talked about how it would feel to lose everything we owned.  Then, I asked my kids what we could do about it.

Joey immediately suggested buying new Star Wars toys for the kids who lost everything—a great start—but when I asked him how much he was willing to spend to buy new toys for kids in need, things started to go downhill.  He started whining about how he was saving for a rocket ship.  And how he almost had enough.  And how much he wanted the toy.

My instinct was to tell Joey that I’d buy the toys for the kids so he could keep the money he’s worked so hard to save.  But what would that teach him?  That I can give generously?  That if he’s saving for a rocket ship, his want trumps others needs?

So, I stopped his selfish spiral and said, “Joey, these kids lost everything!  I need you to spend today praying and thinking about how it would feel and how we can be generous with our resources to help others.”  And I left it at that.

We’re going to Target after I pick him up from school today.  I’m going to bring his wallet along.  Please, pray with me that he’ll be willing to give—and give generously.

Question: How do you teach generosity to your children?



  1. Ooh, you are good! I love the idea you have about giving them an allowance but charging if you end up doing their chores. That is fabulous because currently my kids do not get an allowance since they never do their chores (well, all of them). Love it, Erin.

    I think it’s really hard for kids to wrap their heads around giving financially, especially when it comes to the dollars they’ve earned on their own. It is so important to teach though. In fact, I am constantly searching for new ways to instruct my own kiddos to give, to serve, and to become compassionate towards others needs, and appreciative of all that they have.

    Good luck at Target. I have a feeling he’ll do the right thing…

  2. What Kevin Lehman book did you read?
    I love your heart, Erin! It’s always good to hear how others work on character building in their kids. I will definitely be thinking of ways to start PAKman on thinking about generosity.

    • Have a New Kid by Friday

  3. Glad you did this! We talked with Cort, too, not in terms of money (cause his two-year-old self has none), but about giving some of his nicer toys. It was really hard for him, but he chose two–and one was a quite beloved truck. I think one thing that helped him is we watched some video of the fire and looked at some pictures to help him understand it was real. We also talked about God’s generosity to us in the form of family, love. I am not sure if it completely took, but he seemed to care. It’s a hard lesson! Adults aren’t good at giving at the cost of their luxury. Glad you’re teaching it!

  4. Saved as a favorite, I love your site! :)